China's Coast Guard could start harassing Taiwan soon: analyst

03/12/2021 10:00 PM
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Taipei, March 12 (CNA) China's Coast Guard vessels could soon join People's Liberation Army's warplanes in harassing Taiwan now that China's Coast Guard Law is in effect, an analyst in Taiwan warned Friday at a forum on the possible effects of the controversial law.

"Chances are the harassment by Chinese Coast Guard assets will be more serious than that of Chinese military planes," said Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a senior analyst at the government-funded Institute for National Defense and Security Research, at the forum.

That's because "Coast Guard ships operate with more flexibility due to their supposed civilian nature" and can carry out "gray zone" tactics, which refer to moves by a state to achieve its objectives but that are less likely to cause a military conflict, Su warned.

Although Coast Guard units of every country may use weapons when enforcing laws, the problem with China's Coast Guard Law lies in the extent to which it allows the use of force, Su said.

The law, which took effect on Feb. 1, alarmed the region because it allows the country's white ships to use weapons against foreign vessels operating in all waters claimed by China under certain conditions.

Article 49 of the law even permits Chinese Coast Guard personnel to use weapons without the need to issue a warning when there is not enough time to do so or when issuing a warning may result in a more serious situation.

Incidents in which Chinese Coast Guard ships used excessive force while operating in waters claimed by China, such as waters near Vietnam and Malaysia, have been common in the past, according to Su.

In terms of size, the largest Chinese Coast Guard ship has a displacement tonnage of around 12,000 tons, three times bigger than Taiwan's largest, he said.

According to the Foreign Ministry, more than 100 incidents of "harassment" by Chinese warplanes were recorded around Taiwan in 2020, involving 1,807 sorties.

Meanwhile, Alex Hsu (許峻賓), an associate researcher at the Taiwan Center for Security Studies, said the Chinese Coast Guard's paramilitary nature would create confusion for other countries when situations arise.

"Those countries may not know whether they should send Navy ships or Coast Guard ships to respond to disputes involving China's Coast Guard ships. This could lead to a miscalculation between the parties," he warned.

Although the region has yet to see the Chinese Coast Guard actually enforce the new law, it is a common practice of Beijing to make a law that exerts pressure on other countries and implement it later when the time is right, Akio Yaita, a Japanese journalist, said at the forum.

(By Emerson Lim and Lai Yen-hsi)

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