Chinese coast guard causes “panic” in Taiwan. This is part of Beijing’s plan.

(CNN) — The King Xia, a Taiwanese tourist boat, was carrying 23 passengers on a trip to Taiwan’s Kinmen Islands, a few kilometers off China’s southeast coast, when it was intercepted by two Chinese coast guard vessels.

In a “forced” inspection that lasted about half an hour, six Chinese officers boarded the ship and checked the route plans, certificates and licenses of its 11 crew members, according to Taiwan’s coast guard, which said King Zia had refused to allow the Chinese to travel abroad. “had turned” towards. At the water’s edge to avoid sandy rocks.

The unprecedented meeting with Chinese officials came as a surprise to Taiwanese passengers aboard the plane at a time of heightened tensions between Beijing and Taipei.

“It’s very scary,” one passenger told Taiwan’s United Daily News in a video as he returned to shore with a Taiwanese coast guard ship on Monday. “(I was) very afraid that I wouldn’t be able to return to Taiwan.”

Kuan Billing, head of Taiwan’s Ocean Affairs Council, said Tuesday that the incident had caused “panic” among the Taiwanese public.

For years, sightseeing boats between Kinmen and Operates sightseeing boats.

But now the popular route has come under increasing tension as China’s coast guard has stepped up patrols in the area, in what analysts say is Beijing’s latest attempt to tilt the status quo in its favor by undermining Taiwan’s control over the waters.

The tensions escalated after two Chinese fishermen drowned last week when their speedboat capsized while being pursued by Taiwan’s coast guard, which accused them of trespassing in prohibited waters around Kinmen.

Beijing has blamed Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for the deaths and has taken the opportunity to expand its presence in the waters.

Since the weekend, Beijing has refused Taiwan’s designation of “prohibited or restricted waters” near Kinmen, while its coast guard began “routine patrols” in the waters around the islands to strengthen law enforcement. Is.

On Tuesday morning, a Chinese coast guard ship ventured into Taiwan-controlled waters near Kinmen for about an hour, according to Taiwan’s coast guard, which said it sent one of its ships to follow up with the Chinese vessel and Radio and loudspeakers were used to run it. , away.

Ian Chong, a political scientist at the National University of Singapore, said the latest measures are part of China’s “grey zone” strategy, referring to coercive or aggressive state actions that stop short of full-scale war, which Beijing has used. In recent years increasingly into the East and South China Sea, as well as towards Taiwan.

The inspection of the Taiwanese tourist boat by China’s coast guard, which Chong said had not happened before, was intended to provoke Taiwan and see whether it would escalate or accept this type of behavior.

“(The Chinese coast guard) chose a tourist boat because it’s a high profile one; you would expect there would be a lot of people on the boat with cameras and phones,” he said.

“They are trying to destroy water and question Taiwan’s water management ability.”

Taiwan’s coast guard said it would continue to enforce law in the waters under its control and “flexibly adjust its operations to ensure peace and security.”

Kuan, head of Taiwan’s Ocean Affairs Council, said Taiwanese officials would “educate” Taiwanese ship captains that they do not need to stop for Chinese coast guard inspections. He said that in such cases they should immediately inform the council for help.

The stakes are high, as the increased presence and proximity of Chinese and Taiwanese coast guard vessels increases the risk of miscalculation that could lead to open conflict.

Speaking to reporters about the inspection by the Chinese coast guard, Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-kecheng highlighted such risks and said the defense ministry was “very concerned” about possible miscalculations.

He said Taiwan’s military would not “actively intervene” in the incident to prevent further escalation of tensions.

Taiwan's coast guard inspects a boat that capsized during a pursuit off the coast of Kinmen on February 14, 2024.

Taiwan’s coast guard inspects a boat that capsized during a pursuit off the coast of Kinmen on February 14, 2024. (Credit: Taiwan Coast Guard Administration/AP)

preliminary examination for the new president

China already stepped up pressure on Taiwan after Vice President Lai Ching-te, a strong defender of Taiwan’s identity and sovereignty, won the presidential election in January, giving the DPP a historic third consecutive term.

Days after the election, Beijing seized control of one of Taipei’s few remaining diplomatic allies: the Pacific island nation of Nauru.

Last month, Taiwan protested China’s “unilateral” adjustment of flight paths that could result in civilian aircraft flying close to the sensitive midline of the Taiwan Strait, increasing pressure on Taipei over its air defense and security Was.

The median line has long served as an informal demarcation between China and Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory. China does not formally recognize the existence of that line, but until recent years it had largely respected it.

Since then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in 2022, Chinese military aircraft have been regularly flying over the center line as Beijing steps up military pressure on the autonomous democracy.

Tian Feilong, a hard-line jurist in Beijing, compared the Chinese coast guard’s increased patrols in the waters around Kinmen after Pelosi’s visit to China’s “stepping up” on the median line.

This is not only a “declaration of sovereignty” by Beijing, but also “a gradual demonization and establishment of a new normal” in China’s governance and law enforcement across the Taiwan Strait, Tian, ​​a Chinese nationalist, wrote in a comment on guancha.cn. . Newspaper. Place.

Chong, of the National University of Singapore, expects Beijing’s “gray zone” measures to be increased in the coming months, ahead of Lai’s inauguration as Taiwan’s next president in May.

“(It) is an effort to test the incoming Lai administration to see whether it will make any concessions or make any mistakes that Beijing can take advantage of,” he said.

“Such slow and gradual behavior makes it difficult to respond forcefully, but capitulating would also in some ways be giving up ground to Beijing.”

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