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De facto American ambassador visits Kaohsiung naval base

2019/08/20 18:23:08

Photo from AIT Facebook Page

Taipei, Aug. 20 (CNA) The United States de facto ambassador to Taiwan Brent Christensen on Tuesday visited a naval base in Kaohsiung, where he looked at a destroyer and a batch of amphibious vehicles that the U.S. had sold to Taiwan more than 12 years ago.

The visit to the Zuoying Naval Base by Christensen, director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), came one day after U.S. President Donald Trump confirmed that he had approved the sale of F-16V fighter jets to Taiwan.

At the naval base, Christensen toured a Keelung-class destroyer, formerly a U.S. Kidd-class destroyer, and looked at the AAV7 Assault Amphibious Vehicles that are assigned to the Marine Corps stationed at the base.

In a series of Facebook posts about the visit, the AIT said the U.S. sells Taiwan defense equipment in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) in order to maintain regional peace and stability.

In addition to providing arms sales, the U.S. continues to work with Taiwan in the fields of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, the AIT said.

It is a common practice for AIT directors, the de facto U.S. ambassadors to Taiwan in the absence of official ties, to visit military facilities in the country on the basis of the decades-long security cooperation between the U.S. and Taiwan, but it is rare for the AIT to publicize such visits on social media.

According to the AIT, the visit is meant to mark its Security Cooperation Month with Taiwan in August as part of a year-long campaign commemorating the 40th anniversary of the TRA.

In the period 2005-2006, Taiwan took delivery of four decommissioned Kidd-class destroyers from the U.S., which are now deployed off Taiwan's east coast on early warning missions, in light of China's frequent military training exercises in that area, according to the Ministry of National Defense (MND).

With a displacement of about 9,000 tons, the Keelung-Class guided missile destroyers are the largest of their kind that Taiwan owns.

Meanwhile, the Assault Amphibious Vehicles that Christensen looked at were part of a batch of 54 acquired from the U.S. in 2006 for the purposes of land assaults in wartime and disaster relief in flooded areas in peace time.

Christensen's visit to the base came in the wake of Trump's confirmation that he had approved an US$8 billion deal on F-16Vs for Taiwan, which, according to information from the White House press office, the president said he believed would be used responsibly.

The decision followed a request in late February by Taiwan's defense ministry to purchase 66 F-16Vs from the U.S.

The TRA provides the legal basis for unofficial relations between the U.S. and Taiwan and enshrines in law the U.S. commitment to helping Taiwan maintain its self-defense capability.

The act was passed in 1979, a few months after the U.S. switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

Following the severing of official bilateral ties, the AIT was established to serve as the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan.

(By Joseph Yeh)
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