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Military expert highlights threat of Chinese research ships spying on Taiwan

02/28/2024 09:53 PM
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Photo: China News Service
Photo: China News Service

Taipei Feb. 28 (CNA) A military expert cautioned against the threat of Chinese civilian vessels operating in waters off Taiwan conducting espionage under the pretense of research.

Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a research fellow at Taiwan's state-run Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said that China currently has a fleet of more than 60 research/survey vessels, and that Taiwan is not the only country susceptible to their threats.

Su's comments come following a Feb. 27 report in the Financial Times (FT), which stated that the Zhu Hai Yun, a Chinese drone carrier with links to the People's Liberation Army, made an unprecedented sailing down the full length of Taiwan's east coast in November.

In addition, there had been a sharp uptick in the number of such incursions from just two in each of the previous three years to nine since September of that year, the FT said.

According to the FT's analysis of the Zhu Hai Yun's path, the ship spent a day tracking the 24-nautical mile line east of Taiwan's shores demarcating the country's contiguous zone, crossing it once off the city of Hualien, home to the Chiashan Air Force Base, and again in the Bashi Channel, which Chinese ships need to pass through to reach the Pacific.

"While past incursions occurred mostly north, south and west of Taiwan, there is a more recent focus on the strategic waters to the east," the FT reported.

Su noted the Xiang Yang Hong 03 will be moored in the Maldives, describing the move as one that will surely touch a raw nerve with the South Asian archipelagic country and India.

In addition, Su said, China previously dispatched Type 815 Dongdiao-class spy ships to waters off Australia.

These examples show that Taiwan is not alone in facing Chinese harassment, and more importantly, that Taiwan should be vigilant about espionage.

China frequently uses vessels operated by government and military-affiliated research institutes to assert its claims in disputed waters, sailing close to oil exploration sites inside the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam and Malaysia in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety.

"This represents one more tool the People's Republic of China is using in what I call the all-domain pressure campaign against Taiwan," Christopher Sharman, director of the China Maritime Studies Institute at the U.S. Naval War College was quoted by FT as saying.

In light of the aforementioned threats, Su recommended holding live-fire drills on the "red beach" - beaches along Taiwan's west coast deemed most vulnerable to landing by Chinese troops - in preparation for the scenario that China escalates exercises into a conflict.

(By Henry Wu and Sean Lin)

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