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DEFENSE/Taiwan's military to stay out of China dispute to avoid escalation

02/21/2024 02:13 PM
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The Ministry of National Defense. CNA file photo
The Ministry of National Defense. CNA file photo

Taipei, Feb. 21 (CNA) Taiwan's military has no intention to "directly intervene" in an ongoing maritime dispute with Beijing over an incident in waters off a Taiwan-held island near China's coast to avoid escalating tensions, it said Wednesday.

Captain Lee Chang-fu (李昌富) of the Ministry of National Defense's (MND) joint operations planning section said the case that triggered the dispute is under the jurisdiction of Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration (CGA) and is currently under investigation.

For the time being, the military has chosen to keep close watch on the situation around Kinmen and will let the CGA do its job based on the principles of "no direct involvement, no escalating of tension," Lee said.

The military has also not boosted its defense presence in the Kinmen, Matsu and Penghu islands following the incident, Lee said.

Though it has no intention to intervene in the situation, however, the military has contingency measures in place should tensions with China escalate, Lee said.

Photo courtesy of Kinmen-Matsu-Penghu Branch, Coast Guard Administration Feb. 14, 2024
Photo courtesy of Kinmen-Matsu-Penghu Branch, Coast Guard Administration Feb. 14, 2024

The MND also said it so far has found no irregularities in Chinese troop deployments in areas facing Taiwan following the Feb. 14 incident, in which two Chinese nationals died when their boat capsized while under pursuit by Taiwan's Coast Guard.

The Chinese vessel was spotted trespassing in "prohibited" waters within 1.1 nautical miles of the eastern coast of Kinmen on Feb. 14.

After refusing a Coast Guard request to board their vessel, the men fled, setting off the chase in which their speedboat capsized, according to the CGA.

The two survivors on the capsized boat were deported back to China on Tuesday after being questioned by Kinmen prosecutors investigating the case.

The incident near Kinmen, a frontline Taiwanese island less than 10 kilometers from the Chinese coastal city of Xiamen, has led to verbal sniping between the two sides.

Taiwan has maintained it was acting legally to chase off a boat that had entered prohibited waters, while China has condemned Taiwan for the men's deaths and disputed the legitimacy of Taiwan having "prohibited or restricted areas" around Kinmen.

China pledged on Sunday that its own Coast Guard would begin regular patrols in Kinmen's vicinity.

On Monday afternoon, Chinese Coast Guard personnel boarded and inspected a Taiwanese sightseeing vessel 2.8 nautical miles northwest of Kinmen's Wushajiao, sparking protests from Taiwanese officials.

Taipei has since called on Beijing to exercise restraint as Taiwanese prosecutors investigate if there was any wrongdoing on the part of the Coast Guard authorities in the deaths of the two Chinese.

(By Matt Yu and Joseph Yeh)


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