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Speedboat deaths used as grey zone tactic to pressure Taiwan: official

02/28/2024 09:22 PM
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File Photo courtesy of Kinmen-Matsu-Penghu Branch, Coast Guard Administration
File Photo courtesy of Kinmen-Matsu-Penghu Branch, Coast Guard Administration

Taipei, Feb. 28 (CNA) An anonymous high-level Taiwanese national security official said on Wednesday that Beijing is using grey zone tactics in its handling of an incident in which a speedboat capsized and two Chinese men died in Republic of China (Taiwan) territorial waters off the Kinmen Islands after being chased by the Taiwan Coast Guard.

The Chinese speedboat entered "prohibited waters" off the Kinmen Islands, which are at their nearest point 2km from the Chinese coast, on Feb. 14. It capsized after being chased and colliding with a Taiwan Coast Guard vessel.

Immediately after the incident China's Taiwan Affairs Office described it as "cruel" and "malignant" and used its official media and social media outlets to amplify the incident, making it a widely searched event on the Chinese internet, according to the official.

The official claimed that Beijing manipulated information on social media and had its coast guard board a Taiwanese tourist vessel on Feb. 19, in an effort to use the incident to exert grey zone pressure against Taiwan.

The best response to such grey zone tactics is transparency, the official said, adding that the Taiwanese government has been consistent in its position that the incident is one of maritime law enforcement and will be investigated by prosecutors.

In other words, it has nothing to do with cross-strait politics, the official stressed.

As to Chinese coast guard vessels operating in waters just outside the prohibited zone around the Kinmen Islands following the incident, an official involved in the case said the Taiwan Coast Guard will maintain its patrol capacity and increase its existing 16 patrol boats in Kinmen with patrol vessels larger than 1000-tonnes, or have them stationed in Kinmen if tensions continue.

As for the apology demanded by China, the national security official said the demand indicates China's denial of Taiwan's law enforcement rights in its territorial waters.

Taiwan is willing to resolve the issue, continue communicating, and provide necessary humanitarian aid to the family members of the deceased Chinese crew members, the official added.

It is difficult to know whether tensions will continue to rise or conflict become more regular, the official said, noting that Taiwan will continue its surveillance and reconnaissance operations in the area, while providing a comprehensive explanation by conducting an investigation.

All in all, the incident is one of maritime law enforcement against the trespassing of a "three nos" vessel which displayed no name, no certificate and no registration from its port of registry, the official said.

(By Wen Kuei-hsiang and Alison Hsiao)

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