HMS Richmond, a Type 23 Frigate, has sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait on enroute to Vietnam to demonstrate freedom of navigation, in a move likely to anger Beijing.
There are currently amid heightened tensions between China and Taiwan. China claims Taiwan as its own territory and has stepped up military and political pressure to force the democratically ruled island to accept Chinese sovereignty.
While U.S. warships pass through the strait on an almost monthly basis, despite Chinese opposition, the Royal Navy has not done so since 2019.
After a busy period working with partners and allies in the East China Sea, we are now en route through the Taiwan Strait to visit #Vietnam and the Vietnam People's Navy. #CSG21 International by design pic.twitter.com/0bys9eYY42
— HMS Richmond (@HMS_Richmond) September 26, 2021
Earlier this month First Sea Lord Tony Radakin told Nikkei Asia that it was “very clear that the Taiwan Strait is international waters. It is a waterway that can be used by different nations.”
Back in 2018, assault ship HMS Albion was challenged by a Chinese frigate and two helicopters during freedom of navigation exercise in the nearby but equally disputed South China Sea. Local media reported that both sides remained calm during the encounter and the Royal Navy assault ship continued on course despite protests from China.
China has previously warned the West “not to play with fire” on Taiwan issues and demanding “peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait”.
Earlier in the month, HMS Richmond captured evidence of ships apparently breaching United Nations sanctions targeting North Korea’s Weapons of Mass Destruction and ballistic missile programmes.
Why is HMS Richmond there?
The frigate is part of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Carrier Strike Group. Over the last month HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Carrier Strike Group has been conducting a series of exercises with the Japanese, United States and the Republic of Korea, separate to sanctions enforcement, you can read more about that at the Royal Navy website here.
The Royal Navy say that HMS Richmond is now currently alongside in Japan undertaking a planned routine maintenance programme before resuming operations and defence engagement with the Carrier Strike Group.