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Premier urges reciprocal cooperation amid cross-strait maritime dispute

02/20/2024 04:51 PM
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Premier Chen Chien-jen speaks at the Legislature on Tuesday. CNA photo Feb. 20, 2024
Premier Chen Chien-jen speaks at the Legislature on Tuesday. CNA photo Feb. 20, 2024

Taipei, Feb. 20 (CNA) Premier Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) on Tuesday called for both sides of the Taiwan Strait to approach the security of Kinmen and Xiamen waters with rationality and equality, following a boat chase that resulted in the death of two Chinese fishermen last week.

Chen said that Taiwan has been implementing law and order in compliance with the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area in the waters surrounding the outlying Kinmen County, located less than 10 kilometers from China-held Xiamen, Chen said.

Chen was responding to local media inquiries ahead of the Legislative session, amid rising cross-strait tensions following the capsizing of a Chinese speedboat off the eastern coast of Kinmen on Feb. 14 during a pursuit by Taiwanese authorities.

According to Chen, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense established the boundaries of "prohibited waters and restricted waters" around Kinmen in 1992 to better protect fishermen, with relevant law enforcement well understood by both sides across the strait.

Taiwan's government will continue to uphold maritime safety and fishermen's rights, Chen said, urging both parties to prohibit the entry of illegal fishing vessels and ships into these waters through the respective coast guards.

At present, the prohibited zone around the main islands of Kinmen and Little Kinmen extends about halfway to the Chinese coast to the north and northeast, up to about 4 kilometers to the east, and about 8 kilometers to the south.

Taipei and Beijing have traded barbs over the legitimacy of the zone after the Feb. 14 incident, with the latter announcing to enhance its maritime law enforcement capabilities and increase regular patrols in the region.

On Feb. 19, the China Coast Guard boarded a Kinmen sightseeing boat in the region by conducting a surprise inspection, raising further concerns.

In response, Taiwan's Ocean Affairs Council head Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said China's practice was regrettable while urging Taiwanese ship operators to "not to stay where China is attempting inspections, but instead notify the council immediately for assistance."

As for the premier, his last policy address representing President Tsai Ing-wen's (蔡英文) administration at the Legislature went off to a rough start, facing a 40-minute boycott from opposition Kuomintang (KMT) lawmakers over a recent food safety controversy.

Legislative Speaker Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) of the KMT determined that representatives from all parties would gather for a bipartisan consultation to discuss the timing and format of a special report on food safety issues to be presented by the premier, before Chen was allowed to brief.

In his 40-page report, Chen said Taiwan, which is now the world's 21st largest economy, has made a significant improvement in economic performance under Tsai's rule, posting a 3.2 percent average economic growth rate since 2016.

The country is also on track to build up its self-national defense, and its first indigenous defense submarine, the Narwhal, which will be officially launched in 2025, he said.

(By Lin Ching-yin, Wang Yang-yu and Lee Hsin-Yin)

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