The CCP’s Continued Provocations Around Taiwan’s Kinmen Island

The CCP’s Continued Provocations Around Taiwan’s Kinmen Island
Taiwanese coast guards inspect a vessel that capsized during a chase off the coast of Kinmen archipelago in Taiwan on Feb. 14, 2024. (Taiwan Coast Guard Administration via AP)
Jessica Mao
News Analysis

A Taiwanese tourist boat sailing in the waters of Kinmen Islands, which is only 6.2 miles from China but is under the sovereignty of Taiwan, was forcibly boarded by a China Coast Guard vessel. This incident further escalated tensions across the Taiwan Strait, and experts say that this is China’s newest challenge to Taiwan’s sovereignty.

On the afternoon of Feb. 19, the Taiwanese tourist boat King Xia, carrying 11 crew and 23 passengers, was boarded and inspected by personnel from the China Coast Guard in the waters of Kinmen Islands. After discovering that the unidentified personnel boarding the boat were from the China Coast Guard, many tourists onboard became frightened and worried that they would be unable to return to Taiwan safely.

Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration stated that at 4:47 pm, six China Coast Guard personnel boarded the tourist boat and inspected the navigation plan, boat certificates, captain and crew licenses, and the captain’s signature inside the boat’s cabin. They departed at 5:19 pm. All of those onboard were Taiwanese.

The King Xia tourist boat departed from Kinmen Shuitou at 3:33 pm and sailed around the waters of Kinmen for sightseeing. Due to shallow shoals outside Wusha Corner, the cruise ship veered towards the mainland area during the voyage. Taiwan’s coastguard arrived at the scene at 5:33 pm and escorted the boat back to safety.

Taiwan’s coastguard explained that they have only driven away Chinese vessels in the past through broadcast and have never boarded for inspection.

After the incident, Taiwan’s Maritime and Port Bureau stated that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) did not comply with international norms. In the future, if boats encounter similar situations again, they should refuse boarding for inspection.

Chinese Intrusion 

The recent round of disputes in the waters between Kinmen on the Taiwan side and Xiamen on the China side began on Feb. 14. On that day, a Chinese speedboat entered the restricted waters near Kinmen and capsized while being chased by Taiwan’s coastguard vessels. The incident resulted in the death of two people on the Chinese vessel.

According to the Cross-Strait Act implemented by Taiwan, vessels from mainland China are not allowed to enter restricted or prohibited waters in Taiwan without permission from Taiwanese authorities.

After the speedboat incident, the Taiwan Affairs Office of the CCP claimed that there were “no prohibited or restricted waters” in the waters between Kinmen and Xiamen. Subsequently, the local Fujian Bureau responsible for maritime patrol on China’s side said that it would strengthen the so-called “routine law enforcement patrols” in the area, leading to the forced boarding of the Taiwanese tourist ship.

In recent years, the CCP has been breaking conventions and challenging Taiwan’s sovereignty. They claim that there is no median line in the Taiwan Strait and have unilaterally announced the removal of civil aviation restrictions in this area since Feb. 1 of this year. This move has further encroached on the median line of the strait, leading to concerns from the international community that tensions across the strait could escalate.

CCP’s Continued Provocations

On Feb. 22, Toronto human rights activist Sheng Xue, a key leader of the overseas Chinese pro-democracy movement, said in an interview with The Epoch Times that the intruding Chinese speedboats into Kinmen were provocative. She expressed skepticism about the true identity of these supposed individuals on the boat, believing they were likely mercenaries hired by the CCP.

Ms. Sheng believes that the reason the CCP is willing to take such actions that lead to the deaths of two people may be that Chinese leader Xi Jinping has realized that the CCP has lost the ability to attack Taiwan.

Xi Jinping saw that the Rocket Force he built in the Chinese military had become so corrupt that it could not be sent into battle. The top generals of the Rocket Force are all involved in corruption scandals and are under investigation. This was supposed to be Xi Jinping’s highly valued elite force for attacking Taiwan. However, the current situation has made him realize that he can no longer attack Taiwan as he had previously planned, so he can only take other measures and continue to provoke recklessly.

“This is also a test for the Taiwanese government,” Ms. Sheng added. “If Taiwan continues to concede, the CCP will undoubtedly become more aggressive.”

She believes Taiwan must express a clear stance, sending a message to the CCP that its behavior is unacceptable. In addition, Western countries should also issue clear warnings to the CCP if it continues to provoke.

Undermining Taiwan’s Sovereignty

Su Ziyun, a researcher at the Taiwanese think tank Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR), said that the CCP is attempting to seize Taiwan’s sovereignty, and provoking incidents has been its established practice.

On Feb. 21, Mr. Su told The Epoch Times that islands like Kinmen and Matsu, which are close to mainland China, are not designated territorial waters by Taiwan. Instead, they were defined as restricted and prohibited waters under Taiwan’s Cross-Strait Act. This was originally Taiwan’s goodwill towards China.

Mr. Su said that the responsibility for these incidents clearly falls on the CCP. Globally, China’s fishing vessels have been causing trouble for many other countries, including in conflicts in the Yellow Sea with South Korea, the East China Sea with Japan, and the South China Sea with the Philippines and Vietnam.

In contrast, Taiwan cooperates with other democratic countries, particularly the United States. The Biden administration released the Indo-Pacific Strategy in 2022, which includes multinational maritime security operations to monitor the movements of these unlicensed Chinese fishing vessels, aiming to prevent potential security threats or damage to fisheries resources.

“The CCP’s actions are extremely unwise,” Mr. Su said. “Under Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s leadership, the CCP deliberately displays a provocative stance for internal propaganda purposes, which will harm the feelings of people on both sides of the strait. If the CCP maintains this provocative stance, it will only further promote cooperation among democratic countries and form a counter to the CCP.”

He also explained that Taiwan will continue strengthening its maritime patrols and avoid escalating the situation. This is the mature approach for Taiwan as a free democratic country.

From a geographical perspective, the Kinmen Islands are only 6.2 miles from Xiamen on China’s side and around 116 miles from Taiwan’s main island. Since the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Republic of China retreated from mainland China to Taiwan in 1949, Kinmen has always been the frontline of military confrontation between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Mr. Su explained that the Kinmen Islands are almost like an enclave that exists in more than 30 countries around the world. However, other countries manage such territories via dialogue and cooperation. Only the CCP attempts to blur the borders and destroy the boundaries to the restricted waters, which undoubtedly harms the relations between both sides.

Xin Ning contributed to the report.