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U.S. Navy uses new tactic in navigating Taiwan Strait: expert

2019/04/29 21:59:12

Photo courtesy of a private contributor

Taipei, April 29 (CNA) Two American vessels sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday with their Automatic Identification System (AIS) on, an unprecedented move used to highlight the international nature of the strait's waters, a military expert said Monday.

Lu Li-shih (呂禮詩), a retired lieutenant commander of Taiwan's Navy, told CNA that Sunday's passage was different from others because the two vessels turned on their AIS, allowing them to be monitored on the app MarineTraffic, which displays near real-time positions of ships and yachts worldwide.

According to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, it is not mandatory for vessels used for official and military purposes to have their AIS in operation at all times, Lu said.

In the past, the United States only disclosed passages through the Taiwan Strait in a press release, Lu said.

During Sunday's passage, however, the two Navy warships turned on their AIS when sailing past Taichung Port and turned it off when reaching the latitude of Fugui Cape, the northernmost tip of the island of Taiwan, the MarineTraffic app showed.

Lu said past U.S. Navy transits through the Taiwan Strait were freedom of navigation operations to assert that waters in the region, including the Taiwan Strait, were international waters.

Turning on the AIS only reinforced that message, Lu argued.

Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense confirmed on Monday that two American vessels sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, the seventh such transit since July 2018.

The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) is an international maritime treaty concerning the safety of merchant ships, according to the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The first version of the treaty was passed as a result of the Titanic disaster in 1912, the IMO said.

(By Matt Yu and Chung Yu-chen)
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