Chinese sand dredging vessels dispersed near Matsu
Taipei, Oct. 28 (CNA) Chinese sand dredgers are prohibited from entering Taiwan's waters and those illegally operating near Taiwan-held islands have been forcibly dispersed, Ocean Affairs Council Minister Lee Chung-wei (李仲威) said on Wednesday.
According to Lee, all Chinese sand dredgers near Matsu were forced out of Taiwan's waters as of Tuesday evening after a joint crackdown by Taiwan's Coast Guard and Chinese law enforcement authorities, following their appearance in the area on Oct. 25.
Lee condemned illegal operations by Chinese vessels in Taiwan's waters when asked by reporters, before attending a legislative hearing about hundreds of Chinese sand dredgers illegally operating near Taiwan's Matsu Islands over the past few days.
The Matsu Archipelago, which is made up of dozens of islands, including Nangan, Beigan, Juguang, and Dongyin, lies about 10km from China's coast.
Noting that Chinese boats were unlawfully operating in waters between Matsu's Nangan, Beigan and Juguang islands and near the Penghu Islands, Lee vowed such actions would be dealt with through a two-way mechanism if more Chinese sand dredgers are found illegally operating.
Speaking at the legislative hearing, Lee said 400-500 Chinese sand dredgers gathered in waters near Nangan on Oct. 25, but official action was not taken because Taiwanese authorities were seeking to determine whether they were engaged in military activities.
Judging from conditions in the area that day, the Chinese boats appeared to be focused on the illegal dredging of sand, he said.
Chinese sand dredgers started operating in waters around the Matsu Islands two years ago, Lee said.
Following the clampdown Tuesday evening, the Coast Guard said Chinese sand dredgers were sailing between Nangan and Juguang in waters beyond Taiwan's jurisdiction.
The Coast Guard stressed that it will step up patrols in waters around Matsu, work with Chinese authorities to prevent any re-occurrence, enhance maritime security and ensure sustainable development in the ecosystem around Matsu.
According to the Coast Guard, from January 2019 to September this year, the Matsu Coast Guard boarded six Chinese sand dredgers, which were forced to pay around NT$150 million (US$5.2 million) in fines and money secured from the sale of property at auction.
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