Tensions Rise as Taiwan Drives Away Chinese Coast Guard Boat Near Sensitive Waters

Tensions Rise as Taiwan Drives Away Chinese Coast Guard Boat Near Sensitive Waters

Taipei on Tuesday drove away a Chinese coast guard boat in sensitive waters near Taiwan-held territory and protested the boarding of a Taiwanese tourist boat a day earlier, in the latest signs of growing cross-strait tensions.

[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]

The incidents come less than a week after the Taiwanese coast guard on Feb. 14 pursued Chinese fishermen in waters off Kinmen, an island group governed by Taipei but situated less than six miles from mainland China’s Xiamen’s province, that led to a capsizing that killed two people.

In a statement Monday, Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration said the King Xia Cruise, a tourist ferry with 11 crew members and 23 passengers on board, had been traveling at around 3:33 p.m. local time in the waters around Kinmen. The statement said that in order to avoid shoals near the area, the ferry had to take a detour by sailing toward the mainland.

At around 4:47 p.m. local time, two Chinese coast guard ships intercepted the King Xia. Six mainland officers boarded for inspection and disembarked 30 minutes later. Around 10 minutes later, Taiwan’s coast guard boats escorted the King Xia back to Kinmen.

Taiwan’s Ocean Affairs Minister Kuan Bi-ling told reporters Tuesday that the boarding “hurts the feelings of [Taiwanese] people, creates panic among our people, and it’s not in the interests of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait,” referring to the 100 mi.-wide waterway separating mainland China from Taiwan.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council minister Chiu Tai-san said in an interview with local media Tuesday that it was “necessary for both parties to deal with problems rationally and with restraint.”

Earlier, Taiwan’s coast guard criticized its Chinese counterparts. “The mainland also has similar sightseeing ships that go to the waters off Kinmen for guided tours. When such ships that operate in good faith and do not intentionally violate the law stray into our waters, they are chased away through broadcasts and never boarded for inspection,” the statement said. 

China has said it will ramp up patrols in the waters near Xiamen in the wake of the Feb. 14 capsizing in Kinmen.

But Benjamin Ho, coordinator of the China program at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, tells TIME that mainland coast guards boarding the Taiwanese tour ferry exemplifies how China will “move the needle on cross-strait relations, and to normalize such behavior in the future.”

Ho cited the “way the Chinese have flown planes past the median line regularly now,” referring to the unofficial maritime barrier between China and Taiwan.

Beijing has long insisted that Taiwan, the self-governing island of 23 million people, is an inalienable part of China and has in recent years increasingly threatened to use force for reunification.

— Koh Ewe contributed reporting.

Leave a comment

Send a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *