Taiwan maintains composure amidst maritime scrutiny by Chinese authorities

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20th February 2024 – (Taipei) Chinese coast guard officials conducted an inspection of a Taiwanese tourist vessel in the proximity of the strategically pivotal Kinmen islands. The action, which Taiwan’s government described as causing “public disquiet,” has unfolded against a backdrop of political developments that have seen Taipei’s vigilance rise.

Beijing’s assertion of sovereignty over Taiwan, which Taiwan robustly contests, has intensified following the election of President-elect Lai Ching-te, who is viewed by China as a separatist threat. The recent boarding incident, occurring on Monday, involved a routine check of the vessel’s documentation and personnel by six Chinese coast guard officers, an action which Taiwan’s Ocean Affairs Council has criticised for its unsettling impact on the Taiwanese populace.

Kuan Bi-ling, head of the Council, articulated Taipei’s stance, suggesting that such actions do not align with the interests of communities on either side of the strait. The boarding, which took place after the reported deaths of two Chinese nationals in a previous encounter with Taiwanese coast guard, has not elicited a military response from Taiwan, as Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng has emphasised a non-escalatory approach to the incident.

The Kinmen archipelago, under Taipei’s control since 1949 and situated a mere stone’s throw from China’s Xiamen and Quanzhou, stands as a symbolic and literal frontier of the Republic of China’s retreat to Taiwan. While boasting a significant Taiwanese military presence, the islands’ waters are patrolled by the coast guard, underscoring their dual role as a tourist hub and a military bastion.