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Lawmaker urges better protection of Taiwan-Matsu undersea cables

05/01/2024 06:37 PM
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An aerial view of the water around the Matsu Islands, where several vessels were working on fixing an undersea cable in December 2021. CNA file photo
An aerial view of the water around the Matsu Islands, where several vessels were working on fixing an undersea cable in December 2021. CNA file photo

Taipei, May 1 (CNA) A lawmaker on Wednesday urged the government to improve the protection of undersea cables between Taiwan and the Matsu Islands by designating them as critical infrastructure.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Hung Sun-han (洪申翰) brought up the issue at a hearing at which National Security Bureau (NSB) Director-General Tsai Ming-yen (蔡明彥) reported on the need to strengthen the country's critical infrastructure.

Hung noted that there have been several incidents of the cables being severed, including two early last year, and he suggested that they may be part of China's "gray zone" activities, given the proximity of the Matsu Islands to China.

Citing an unnamed Washington-based think tank, he speculated that some of the incidents may have been premeditated, and he called on the Office of Homeland Security, an agency under the Executive Yuan, to designate the undersea cables critical infrastructure to offer them better protection.

Tsai replied that it could not be ruled out that the damage to the cables was a deliberate "gray zone" activity by China, and he said the bureau would pass on Hung's suggestion at an upcoming Cabinet meeting.

According to an AP story in April 2023, Chunghwa Telecom data showed that the cables had been cut a total of 27 times in the previous five years, but it did not know from which country the vessels that did the damage hailed from.

Citing similar figures, Tsai said they were severed by fishing vessels, though other reports have cited Chinese sand dredgers and cargo ships among the culprits.

As "unusual" as those incidents seem, an analysis of Chinese fishing boats' routes should be conducted to look for any anomalies before any conclusion can be drawn, Tsai said.

Meanwhile, responding to media queries before the hearing, Tsai said the NSB will keep close tabs on any indications of Chinese military exercises aimed at applying pressure on the incoming administration of President-elect Lai Ching-te (賴清德).

China customarily holds a series of military drills from June through to November, and the NSB will pay close attention to any attempt at intimidating Taiwan under the pretext of a military drill.

Lai, the chairman of the independence-leaning DPP, will be sworn in as president on May 20.

(By Matt Yu, Wu Su-wei, and Sean Lin)

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