Taiwan minister says China coast guard triggers panic by boarding Taiwan tourist boat

By Thomson Reuters Feb 19, 2024 | 8:21 PM

TAIPEI (Reuters) – The boarding of a Taiwanese tourist boat by China’s coast guard triggered panic among Taiwanese people, a Taiwan minister said on Tuesday, as tensions rise across the sensitive Taiwan Strait.

China announced on Sunday that its coast guard would begin regular patrols and set up law enforcement activity around the Taiwan-controlled islands of Kinmen, following the death of two Chinese nationals fleeing Taiwan’s coast guard having entered into waters too close to Kinmen.

Six Chinese coast guard officers on Monday boarded a Taiwanese tourist boat carrying 11 crew members and 23 passengers to check its route plan, certificate and crew licenses, leaving around half an hour later, Taiwan’s coast guard said.

“We think it has harmed our people’s feelings and triggered people’s panic. That was also not in line with the interest of the people across the strait,” Kuan Bi-ling, head of Taiwan’s Ocean Affairs Council, told reporters outside the parliament in Taipei on Tuesday.

Kuan said it was common for Chinese and Taiwanese tourist boats to accidentally entered the other side’s waters.

“Boats like these are not illegal at all,” she said.

Kinmen is a short boat ride from the Chinese cities of Xiamen and Quanzhou and has been controlled by Taipei since the defeated Republic of China government fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with Mao Zedong’s communists, who set up the People’s Republic of China.

Kinmen was the site of frequent fighting during the height of the Cold War but is now a popular tourist destination, though many of its islets are heavily fortified by Taiwanese forces and remain off limits to civilians.

China claims Taiwan as its territory and has not ruled out using force to take control of the democratically-governed island. The Taipei government says only the Taiwanese people can decide their future.

(Reporting By Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman; Editing by Michael Perry)