- The Washington Times - Friday, November 22, 2002

Taiwan boosts patrols to counter China

TAIPEI, Taiwan The defense minister of the Republic of China (Taiwan) says his forces have stepped up air and naval patrols off the east of the island amid reports that China is increasing its military operations there.

"The Defense Ministry has ordered the air force and navy to increase their patrols as part of our efforts to keep a close eye on the area," Defense Minister Tang Yao-ming told parliament.

Mr. Tang said Taiwan would not be able to check Chinese operations if it does not buy Kidd-class destroyers from the United States. "The navy's combat capability would be boosted fivefold once it is joined by the fleet of Kidd-class destroyers," Mr. Tang said. The parliament's Defense Committee last month backed purchase of four second-hand Kidd-class destroyers if the parliament approves.

The 9,600-ton destroyers would be armed with Standard II-3A surface-to-air missiles.

U.S. destroyer to call at Qingdao

BEIJING A U.S. Navy ship is to call at a Chinese port next week, the first such visit since military ties were ruptured after the collision of an American spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet.

The USS Paul F. Foster, a destroyer with the U.S. 7th Fleet operating in the western Pacific, will stop at the eastern port of Qingdao, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing announced. It didn't say what day the ship would arrive.

China-U.S. military relations soured after the April 1, 2001, collision over the South China Sea. Both sides accused the other of causing the crash, and China detained the American plane's 24 crew members for 11 days after the EP-3 made an emergency landing on China's Hainan island.

U.S. ships have since visited Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, but the visit to Qingdao would be the first to a mainland port by a U.S. Navy ship since March 2001.

Muslim-area violence rings alarms in Bangkok

BANGKOK With dozens of bombings and 20 policemen slain by unidentified attackers, Muslim-majority southern Thailand has experienced a spate of violence in the past year that has rung alarm bells after the Bali bombings.

The government insists the incidents are not the work of terrorists, but are linked with "local factors" like feuds between gangster groups a view generally backed by political analysts.

Still, the five southernmost provinces bordering Malaysia, 600-plus miles from Bangkok, Thailand's capital, have clearly slipped from the government's control. The region is a hub for crimes, including trafficking in weapons, drugs, oil and women.

Weekly notes

The United States and the Philippines signed an agreement yesterday allowing U.S. forces to use its former Asian colony as a supply point for military operations. Vice President Teofisto Guingona, a nationalist, resigned his other post as foreign minister in July to show opposition to Manila's deepening military ties with Washington as the Philippines battles its own Muslim militants accused of ties to al Qaeda. Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs says it wants Britain's Queen Elizabeth II to formally open its proposed new complex because she is their paramount chief and officially "King of the Fiji Islands." The former British colony has been independent since 1970, but this only let Her Majesty off as head of state at the government level, the chiefs say. She (and her successors) will remain Fiji's monarch until this status is removed at a traditional ceremony.

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