Home News China seizes Taiwanese fishing boat, further escalating cross-strait tensions

China seizes Taiwanese fishing boat, further escalating cross-strait tensions

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China’s Coast Guard has seized a Taiwanese fishing boat and its five crew members and forcibly taken them to a port off the coast of mainland China, the latest move by Beijing that could increase pressure on Taiwan President Lai Ching-te.

Taiwan’s Coast Guard said the fishing boat, the Dajinwen 88, was in Chinese waters, 27 miles northeast of Kinmen, a Taiwan-controlled island off the Chinese coast. Two Chinese coast guard ships boarded the fishing boat and took it under control Tuesday evening. Taiwan’s coast guard ships headed to the area to rescue the fishing boat but were blocked by Chinese coast guard ships.

Tensions are rising in the waters around Taiwan, the self-ruled island claimed by China, as confrontations between coast guards appear to be increasing. Officials and analysts worry that if such incidents become frequent they could increase the risk of conflict and spark a broader crisis between world powers.

Taiwan’s coast guard ship broadcast to China’s Coast Guard Administration demanding the release of the fishing boat, but China responded only by “requesting non-interference,” Taiwan’s statement said. Officials said the fishing boat was carrying two Taiwanese and three Indonesian crew members. Many of the workers on the Taiwanese fishing boats are from Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries.

Taiwan Coast Guard spokesman Hsieh Ching-chin said the Dajinwen 88 had entered Chinese territorial waters. He said the boat was probably seized because China has been more aggressive in enforcing its annual fishing ban in the area since May 1.

“This year, China is different from previous years and has stepped up law enforcement during the fishing moratorium,” Mr. Xie said at a news conference on Wednesday. Mr. Xie told reporters that China has seized 17 Taiwanese fishing boats since 2003, with the last such incident occurring in 2007.

He called on China to release the ship and crew, saying they should not be used as pawns in tensions between China and Taiwan. “China should not use political factors to deal with this incident,” he said.

The seizure — especially the possibility that the ship’s five crew members could be held in China for weeks or longer — is likely to heighten tensions between Taiwan and Beijing. The Chinese government strongly dislikes Lai Ching-te, who took office in May, and outright rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims. His inaugurationSince then, China has stepped up its warnings and intimidation against him and his DPP government.

“They want to show Taiwan that it cannot control its airspace and territorial waters. They are clearly increasing the pressure,” Bonnie S. Glaser, director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said of China’s recent actions. “I think they want to signal to Lai Changxing that he has come very close to their red line and it is best not to cross it.”

Chinese government last month issued broad guidelines on what punishments could be imposed on those deemed to support Taiwanese independence, sparking alarm in Taiwan, particularly because the rules increase the likelihood of the death penalty in extreme cases. Taiwan warns citizens Do not travel to China.

China has also stepped up military flights around Taiwan, at least in part to weaken the island’s air force and other defenses. In June, nearly 300 PLA ​​aircraft flew into the island’s airspace, the second-highest monthly total since Taiwan’s Defense Ministry began publishing such data regularly in 2020. According to PLATrackerThe website specializes in analyzing data released by the ministry.

Experts and diplomats say the increased military activity does not mean Taiwan is about to be attacked. Rather, such operations are part of Beijing’s expanding “gray zone” strategy to intimidate and wear down Taiwan while avoiding a large-scale confrontation that could draw in the United States, Taiwan’s key security backer. China’s large and well-equipped coast guard is the backbone of this effort.

China has repeatedly sent ships into waters off Kinmen, which Taiwan calls a restricted zone, after a Chinese speedboat capsized in February after being pursued by Taiwan’s coast guard, killing two crew members.

In June, the China Coast Guard implemented New rules Clarify its power to board and seize vessels in waters claimed by Beijing, and to detain foreign citizens on board.

Ou Sifu, a researcher at the Institute for National Defense and Security Studies, a think tank under Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense, said China is using its coast guard to “put pressure on Taiwan’s outlying islands and the main island.” “This kind of ‘grey zone’ harassment has caused trouble for Taiwan and made it run around because there are too many ships near the outlying islands and Taiwan has no way to respond effectively.”

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