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Taiwan says it was warned by China to not interfere in the detention of Taiwanese boat crew

Deputy Director General Hsieh Ching-Chin answers a question about a fishing boat intercepted by Chinese vessels Tuesday night, during a news conference in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, July 3, 2024. Taiwan is calling for the release of a fishing boat after it was boarded by China''s coast guard and steered to a port in mainland China on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)
Original Publication Date July 02, 2024 - 7:56 PM

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan said Wednesday that China warned its coast guard against interfering in the detention of a Taiwanese fishing boat, in what was seen as Beijing's latest attempt to assert its territorial claims in the Taiwan Strait.

The incident comes as tensions have risen following the election of Taiwanese President William Lai Ching-te, whose party rejects unification with the mainland, and an apparent threat by Beijing to execute supporters of Taiwanese independence.

Liu Dejun, a spokesperson for China's coast guard, said Wednesday that the Taiwanese fishing boat was detained on suspicion of illegal fishing. Liu said the boat violated a fishing moratorium in Chinese waters by trawling in a forbidden zone. Liu said the boat also was using nets that were finer than allowed by Chinese law.

Taiwan's coast guard repeated its call for the release of the boat and its crew members, who were taken from waters off the Taiwanese-controlled island of Kinmen just off the Chinese coast on Tuesday night. That call was complicated by China’s refusal to communicate with Taiwan’s current government.

A spokesperson for Taiwan's coast guard, Hsieh Ching-chin, said the boat was not in Chinese waters when it was boarded by Chinese agents and steered to a port in the Chinese province of Fujian.

“First, we call on the (Chinese side) to provide an explanation, and second, to release the boat and its crew,” Hsieh said.

The Dajinman 88 was intercepted by two Chinese vessels and Taiwan dispatched three vessels to help, but one that got close to the fishing boat was blocked by three Chinese boats and told not to interfere, the Taiwanese coast guard said in an earlier statement.

Hsieh said four other Chinese boats joined in the operation, an indication of the massive expansion in recent years of China's navy, coast guard and maritime militia.

The pursuit was called off to avoid escalating the conflict, Hsieh said.

The boat has a captain and five crew members, according to Taiwan’s official Central News Agency. The crew are Taiwanese and Indonesian.

The vessel was just over 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Jinjiang in mainland China when it was boarded, Taiwanese authorities said.

China claims self-governing Taiwan is its territory and says the island must come under its control.

Fishermen from both Taiwan and China regularly sail the stretch of water near Kinmen, and tensions have risen as the number of Chinese vessels has increased.

In February, two Chinese fishermen drowned while being chased by Taiwan’s coast guard off the coast of Kinmen, prompting Beijing to step up patrols.

China has been increasing military actions around Taiwan's main island as well as the island groups of Kinmen and Matsu, which lie within sight of the Chinese coast. It also dispatches warplanes and navy ships daily around the island and holds military exercises, seen as rehearsals for a potential blockade or invasion.

Taiwan's Defense Ministry said 20 Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force planes crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait between Tuesday and Wednesday.

Last month, China passed new injunctions threatening to hunt down and potentially execute “die-hard Taiwan independence separatists.” In response, Taiwan warned its citizens to avoid visiting the mainland and the semi-autonomous Chinese cities of Hong Kong and Macao.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Chinese Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office said the threat only affects a hard-core minority of Taiwanese, and accused Taiwan's governing Democratic Progressive Party of “willfully misinterpreting” the action in an attempt to spread fear.

Taiwanese citizens overwhelmingly favor the island's current de facto independence status, despite military threats and diplomatic isolation imposed by Beijing.

Taiwan, a former Japanese colony, rejoined China after World War II but split away in 1949 as the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek were were defeated on the mainland by Mao Zedong’s Communists. No peace treaty has ever been signed, even as ties including direct flights between the sides have burgeoned.


Associated Press writers Dake Kang in Beijing and Didi Tang in Washington contributed to this report.

News from © The Associated Press, 2024
The Associated Press

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