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Taipei deploys Perry-class frigates to monitor Taiwan Strait

By Elizabeth Shim
Taipei deploys Perry-class frigates to monitor Taiwan Strait
Naval officers welcome the arrival of one of two U.S. secondhand Perry-class frigates at in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Taiwan Military News Agency/EPA

May 15 (UPI) -- Taiwan has deployed two retired Oliver Hazard Perry Class guided missile frigates as it militarizes an island in the South China Sea.

The latest measure is being pursued in an effort to increase naval defense, which has included launching a self-built aircraft carrier, according to China's Global Times.

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The Chinese state news service's Taipei correspondent reported the two Perry-class frigates concluded a two-month voyage on Saturday, arriving at Tsoying Harbor in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

The frigates are known by their Taiwanese names Mingchuan and Fengjia.

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The Mingchuan is named after Qing Dynasty Taiwan governor Liu Ming-chuan, and the Fengjia after poet Chiu Feng-jia, who led a resistance against Japan, according to Taiwan's Liberty Times.

Taiwan's navy issued a statement highlighting its increased ability to defend the island through the deployment of the frigates, but added their naval combat power is limited because they are older missile frigates.

The warships are being deployed with the Taiwanese navy's 146th fleet, stationed on the outlying island of Penghu, where they are to monitor the Taiwan Strait, according to Liberty Times.

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The United States authorized the sale of four Perry-class frigates to Taiwan in December 2014.

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Taipei acquired the two frigates, then called the USS Taylor and USS Gary, for about $182 million.

It is unclear why Taiwan did not purchase all four frigates, but it is likely the government did not want to generate a new spat with Beijing.

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Beijing does not acknowledge the sovereignty of the government in Taipei.

A Taiwanese official said navy crewmembers trained for 10 months with the U.S. military to prepare for the deployment.

"The two frigates have been retrofitted to extend their service lives by about 30 years, making them a highly cost-effective option for the navy," Democratic Progressive Party legislator Tsai Shih-ying said.

The vessels were signed over in Charleston, S.C., in March.

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