China says its coast guard patrols around Taiwan islands ‘beyond reproach’

By Thomson Reuters Feb 27, 2024 | 9:21 PM

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s government said on Wednesday that its coast guard patrols around a group of Taiwanese islands near the Chinese coast were “beyond reproach”, and dismissed complaints the boarding of a Taiwan tourist boat had caused panic.

China’s coast guard this month began regular patrols around the Taiwan-controlled Kinmen islands, which face China’s Xiamen and Quanzhou cities, where two Chinese nationals died trying to flee Taiwan’s coast guard after their boat entered prohibited waters.

Taiwan said last week a Taiwanese tourist boat operating from Kinmen had been boarded briefly by China’s coast guard, triggering “panic”, and that this week five Chinese ships entered prohibited or controlled waters.

Speaking at a regular news briefing in Beijing, Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, reiterated it does not recognise any off-limits waters around Kinmen for fishermen, and said that the coast guard did not cause alarm with boarding the tourist boat.

“I don’t think there is any issue of panic,” Zhu said.

The coast guard carries out its official duties in “their own waters” in accordance with the law to maintain “normal order” and protect the lives and of fishermen and travellers, she added.

“Civilized and transparent law enforcement is beyond reproach,” Zhu said.

Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory despite the island’s rejection, has been wary of efforts by Beijing to ramp up pressure on Taipei following last month’s election of Lai Ching-te as president. Beijing considers Lai, who takes office in May, a separatist.

China recognises no sovereignty claims by Taiwan, and has accused Taiwan of acting “maliciously” by causing the deaths of the two Chinese nationals on the fishing boat, which had gotten too close to one of Kinmen’s heavily fortified islets.

Taiwan has defended its action and accused China of failing to properly control its fishing boats and stop them entering Taiwan’s waters around Kinmen, the site of frequent fighting during the height of the Cold War.

Zhu said Taiwan was to blame for its dangerous enforcement actions.

“The relevant parties in Taiwan should respect the fact that both sides of the Taiwan Strait have been operating in traditional waters for a long time, and stop seizing and detaining mainland fishing boats in a rough and dangerous manner.”

(Reporting by Beijing newsroom; Writing by Ben Blanchard)