April 21, 2024

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China intensifies its patrols near Taiwan's remote islands after the killing of two Chinese fishermen

China intensifies its patrols near Taiwan's remote islands after the killing of two Chinese fishermen

Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Chinese city of Xiamen as seen from the Kinmen Islands in Taiwan.


Hong Kong
CNN

China Patrols are intensifying in the waters near the group of confrontation islands it controls TaiwanAs tensions escalated after that Two Chinese fishermen drowned While being chased by the Taiwanese Coast Guard, who accused them of trespassing.

The Chinese Coast Guard said on Sunday that its Fujian division will strengthen maritime law enforcement and carry out “regular patrols” in the waters surrounding the Chinese city of Xiamen and the South China Sea. Kinmen Islands in Taiwanwhich is located only miles away.

The move aims to “further maintain the operational system in relevant waters and protect the lives and property of fishermen,” Gan Yu, a spokesman for the Chinese Coast Guard, said in a statement.

The patrols are likely to place Chinese Coast Guard vessels in close proximity to their Taiwanese counterparts, which could increase the risk of miscalculation and conflict.

The escalation came days after a Chinese speedboat capsized while trying to evade the Taiwan Coast Guard, which said it had encroached on fishing in waters about a nautical mile off the coast of Kinmen.

Four crew members fell into the water. Two survived after being rescued by the Taiwan Coast Guard, while the other two were found unconscious and confirmed dead after being taken to hospital in Kinmen.

Beijing issued Strong condemnations It blamed Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party for the deaths, alleging that it used “various excuses to forcefully seize mainland fishing boats and treat mainland fishermen cruelly and dangerously.”

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China's Taiwan Affairs Office said on Thursday that “such a vicious incident seriously hurt the feelings of compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait” during the Lunar New Year holiday – a time when family reunions are celebrated in both mainland China and Taiwan.

Taiwan Coast Guard Administration/AP

The Taiwan Coast Guard inspects a ship that capsized during a chase off the coast of the Kinmen Islands on February 14, 2024.

The Chinese Communist Party considers Taiwan, a self-governing democracy, part of its territory, although it has never controlled it, and Chinese ships are often active in the waters near Kinmen due to its geographic proximity to mainland China.

On Thursday, the Taiwanese authorities expressed their regret over the deaths, but stressed that the Coast Guard officers were acting within their powers and in accordance with the law.

On Saturday, China's Taiwan Affairs Office intensified its tone, saying the deaths had caused “severe indignation” in mainland China, while denying Taiwan had designated “restricted” waters near Kinmen.

“Fishermen on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have been operating traditional fishing grounds in the waters of Xiamen-Kinmen since ancient times, and there is no such thing as prohibited or restricted waters,” she said in a statement. statement.

The office also urged Taiwanese authorities to release the remaining fishermen from custody.

In response, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said Sunday that it will continue to enforce the law in waters it controls and will expel or detain ships that trespass.

She also denied Beijing's accusations of “harsh expulsions”, saying the unfortunate incident occurred due to “constant intrusions” by unnamed ships, which had no certificate or registration in port, and refusal to cooperate by crew members who made the dangerous move to escape.

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The council added that the case is under investigation by the Taiwan Public Prosecution.

Kwan Pei-ling, minister of Taiwan's Ocean Affairs Council, said the two surviving fishermen in Taiwan's custody are “being cared for” and will be “repatriated soon as the case progresses.”

Kwan added that the Taiwan Coast Guard has previously rescued Chinese fishermen and cargo ships despite escalating military and political tensions across the Taiwan Strait in recent years.

Over the past three years, the Taiwan Coast Guard has rescued 20 people from mainland China, according to Quan.

China has increased its economic, military and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan and cut off most communications with Taipei since the Democratic Progressive Party came to power in 2016.

In previous years, during the tenure of the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang government, rescue teams from Taiwan and mainland China Joint naval maneuvers To practice search and rescue operations in a sign of improving relations.