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Taiwan protests after China boards tourist boat near Kinmen

February 20, 2024

Taiwan accused the Chinese coast guard of creating "panic" by boarding a Taiwanese tourist boat near the Kinmen Islands, which are controlled by Taiwan. The incident comes as tensions rise around the archipelago.

A view of Kinmen island.
Kinmen is administered by Taiwan and lies a few kilometers away from the Chinese city of XiamenImage: Imaginechina-Tuchong/IMAGO

The boarding of a Taiwanese tourist vessel by China's coast guard near sensitive front-line islands led to "panic" among Taiwan's people, a Taiwanese government minister said.

Taiwan's media reported that the King Xia — carrying 23 passengers and 11 crew members — was boarded by the Chinese coast guard for about half an hour near the Taiwan-controlled Kinmen islands on Monday.

Six Chinese coast guard officers boarded the tourist boat to check its route plan, certificate and crew licenses, Taiwan's coast guard said.

The Taiwanese coast guard then escorted the boat back to Kinmen, and it continued its sight-seeing tour.

"We think it has harmed our people's feelings and triggered people's panic. That was also not in line with the interest of the people across the strait," Kuan Bi-ling, head of Taiwan's Ocean Affairs Council, told the media on Tuesday.

The incident came after two Chinese crew members died in a boat capsize near Kinmen last week.

The boat was being pursued by Taiwan's coast guard for being within prohibited waters.

China — which claims self-ruled Taiwan as its territory —  has since increased patrols in the waters off the coast of the Kinmen archipelago.

Taiwan calls for China to 'be rational'

On Tuesday, Taiwanese Premier Chen Chien-jen said that both sides had been aware of "restricted and off-limits sea areas" since 1992.

"We will continue to protect these sea areas to ensure safety in our territorial waters and the rights of our fishermen," he told reporters outside the parliament in Taipei.

"We hope both sides can be rational, equitable and cooperate with each other to ensure the safety of the Kinmen-Xiamen waters so that the people from both sides of the strait can engage with each other in a healthy and orderly manner."

Kinmen lies a few kilometers away from the Chinese city of Xiamen.

It is home to a large Taiwanese military garrison and Taiwan's coast guard patrols its waters.

Meanwhile, Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said the military will not "actively intervene" in Monday's incident involving the tourist boat to avoid a further rise in tensions.

"Let's handle the matter peacefully," he said. "Not escalating tensions is our response."

How can Taiwan defend itself from China?

dvv/nm (AFP, AP, Reuters)