1021: Chinese and Russian Warships Passing Through Japan Chokepoint, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister and Business Delegation to Visit Europe

Chinese and Russian Warships Jointly Pass Japan Chokepoint for First Time, While American and Canadian Naval Vessels Transit Through Taiwan Strait

On October 18, Japan’s Defense Ministry confirmed that a group of naval vessels belonging to China and Russia jointly passed the Tsugaru Strait, a narrow chokepoint in the north of Japan, for the first time. The warships sailed eastward toward the Pacific Ocean, likely as part of a joint maritime exercise, “Naval Interaction 2021,” the two navies are conducting this month.

Japan’s government is “watching with great interest the activities of Chinese and Russian warships around Japan,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki said on October 19. “We will take nothing for granted in our warning and surveillance activities in the air and sea domains around Japan,” Isozaki added.

Although the narrowest point of the Tsugaru Strait is 19.5 km or 12.1 miles, the center part of the strait is specially designated as “international waters” — a Cold War relic that let American vessels carrying nuclear weapons pass through without violating Japan’s “Three Non-Nuclear Principles,” of which one prohibits the introduction of nuclear weapons into Japanese territory.

With the strait being international waters, the passage of the group of five Chinese vessels and five Russian vessels itself does not violate international law. The Chinese warships were the same group that appeared near Tsushima Island in Japan’s south on October 11.

Meanwhile, the American destroyer USS Dewey sailed through the Taiwan Strait along with the Canadian frigate HMCS Winnipeg on October 14–15, amid high tensions between China and Taiwan. The transit marked the 10th time a U.S. Navy vessel has sailed through the Taiwan Strait since President Joe Biden took office in January.

“Dewey’s and Winnipeg’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the commitment of the United States and our allies and partners to a free and open Indo-Pacific. Cooperation like this represents the centerpiece of our approach to a secure and prosperous region,” the U.S. 7th Fleet said.

[1] Nikkei Asia: https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/Chinese-Russian-warships-jointly-pass-Japan-chokepoint-for-1st-time
[2] Taipei Times: https://taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2021/10/18/2003766314

Taiwan’s Foreign Minister and Business Delegation to Visit Europe

On October 19, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) confirmed that Foreign Minister Joseph Wu plans to visit Europe amidst warming relations between Taiwan and the European Union (EU) countries. Meanwhile, a Taiwanese business delegation is also scheduled to visit three central and eastern European countries this and next weeks.

MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou confirmed that Minister Wu was invited by the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) — a body of some 200 global parliamentarians — to attend its conference in Rome on October 29. The conference is meant to serve as a “counter-meeting” ahead of the G20 Leaders’ Summit to demand a tougher stance toward the Chinese government, the IPAC said.

Iain Duncan Smith, the co-founder of the IPAC and longtime British parliamentarian, said the conference was meant to draw attention to China’s “systematic onslaught on democracy, human rights and the rule of law.” “We will be in Rome to remind democratic states of their responsibility to safeguard the international rules-based order — rules that we have helped to shape and are now under threat from Beijing,” Smith added.

Aside from the meeting in Rome, Minister Wu was invited to and might attend a Taiwan-focused forum in Prague on October 27–28, according to a resolution passed by the Czech Senate’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and Security last week. The resolution also welcomed further exchanges and cooperation between the two countries in the areas of innovation, trade and investment.

Meanwhile, a Taiwanese business delegation of more than 65 people is to visit Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Lithuania from October 20 to 30. The delegation will attend a series of meetings focused on high-tech cooperation on October 23–26.

Moreover, on October 19, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Joseph Borrell, sharply ramped up the EU’s rhetoric on Taiwan by saying in his speech that China’s threats to Taiwan “may have a direct impact on European security.” “We, Europeans, have an interest in preserving the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. The European Union encourages everyone to engage in a dialogue and avoid any unilateral actions that may increase tensions around the Strait,” he added.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202110190008
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2021/10/20/2003766429
[3] Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/taiwan-foreign-minister-business-delegation-visit-prague-2021-10-19/
[4] Politico: https://www.politico.eu/article/china-taiwan-europe-security-microchips-technology-trade-josep-borrell/