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Taiwan commissions 2 new navy ships as safeguards against rising threat from China

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan has commissioned two new navy ships as a safeguard against the rising threat from China, which has been ratcheting up its naval and air force missions around the island that it claims as its own territory to be annexed by force if necessary.

The pair of Tuo Chiang class corvettes completes the first order of six of the domestically produced catamarans with stealth capabilities. The ships are relatively small, capable of carrying just 41 sailors and officers, but are fast and highly maneuverable and carry a range of missiles and deck guns aimed at countering larger Chinese vessels and rocketry.

Outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen oversaw the commissioning on Tuesday at the northern port of Suao, emphasizing her push to revitalize Taiwan’s defense industries, alongside extensive arms purchases and support from key ally the United States.

Tsai has also fast-tracked the production of trainer jets and the island’s first homebuilt submarines, sometimes pushing budgets for such purchases through the legislature against resistance from representatives of the opposition Nationalist Party, which favors eventual unification with China.

Ma Ying-jeou, the last president from the Nationalists, also known as the KMT, is reportedly planning a visit to China next month that could include a meeting with Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.

Taiwan was colonized by China in the 1600s but later taken over by Japan, before reverting to the Republic of China at the end of World War II. The sides then split again amid the Chinese Civil War in 1949. Xi has been building his military with an eye to consolidating China’s territorial claims throughout the Pacific, the South China Sea and along the contested high-mountain