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China’s Coast Guards Boarding of Tourist Boat Stirs Panic in Taiwan

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China's Coast Guards Boarding of Tourist Boat Stirs Panic in Taiwan

The boarding of a Taiwanese tourist boat by China’s coast guard near sensitive border islands sparked “panic” among citizens in Taiwan, a government minister said on Tuesday (Feb 20), but Taiwan’s military indicated it had no plans to intervene.

Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory despite the island’s rejection, has been apprehensive of Beijing’s efforts to increase pressure on Taipei following the election of Lai Ching-te as president last month, whom Beijing regards as a dangerous separatist.

Following the deaths of two Chinese nationals fleeing Taiwan’s coast guard after entering restricted waters too near to Kinmen, China stated on Sunday that its coast guard would resume regular patrols and law enforcement action in the area.

Six Chinese coast guard inspectors boarded a Taiwanese tourist boat carrying 11 crew members and 23 guests on Monday to inspect its voyage plan, certificate, and personnel licences before departing around half an hour later, Taiwan’s coast guard said.

“We believe it has hurt our people’s feelings and caused people to panic. “That was also not in the interests of the people across the strait,” Kuan Bi-ling, head of Taiwan’s Ocean Affairs Council, told reporters on the sidelines of parliament in Taipei on Tuesday.

China Coast Guard, Taiwan

China’s coast guard, which does not have publicly available contact information, has yet to comment. China’s Taiwan Affairs Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

According to Kuan, Chinese and Taiwanese tourist boats frequently approach the other side’s waterways by accident.

“Boats like these are not illegal at all,” she went on to say.

Kinmen is a short boat journey from the Chinese cities of Xiamen and Quanzhou, and it has been under Taipei administration since 1949, when the defeated Republic of China government fled to Taiwan after losing a civil war with Mao Zedong’s communists, who established the People’s Republic of China.

The Island of Kinmen is home to a huge Taiwanese military post, however the coast guard monitors its waterways.

Taiwan’s Defence Minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng, told reporters in parliament that the military will not “actively intervene” in the event to avoid additional tensions.

“Let’s handle the matter peacefully,” that’s what he stated. “Not escalating tensions is our response.”

kinmen island

Kinmen was the location of regular combat during the Cold War, but it is today a popular tourist destination, despite the fact that many of its islets are highly defended by Taiwanese soldiers and are off-limits to civilian visitors.

China claims there are no restricted or barred zones for its fishermen around Kinmen.

China’s military has dispatched jets and warships into the skies and seas near Taiwan on a regular basis for the past four years in order to assert Beijing’s sovereignty claims, and this has continued after last month’s election.

However, a senior Taiwanese security official, commenting on the condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to speak to the media, told Reuters that they believe China did not want to turn the situation near Kinmen into a “international incident”.

According to the official, Beijing used the Kinmen incident, which resulted in the deaths of two Chinese people, as a “excuse” to increase pressure on Lai.

The pressure has also resulted in Taiwan losing one of its few remaining diplomatic allies, Nauru, to China, as well as a change in a flight path via the Taiwan Strait.

However, the official predicted that China would continue to increase pressure on Taiwan in the run-up to Lai’s May 20 inauguration.

According to Chinese state media, Quanzhou Red Cross officials, accompanied by family members, arrived in Kinmen on Tuesday to bring home the two survivors of the boat that capsized last week while attempting to outrun Taiwan’s coast guard.

China has never ruled out using force to seize control of democratically controlled Taiwan. President-elect Lai and Taiwan’s administration reject Beijing’s sovereignty, claiming that only the Taiwanese people can determine their own future.

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