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Taiwan claims five Chinese coast guard vessels entered restricted waters near frontline islands

Taiwan claimed on Tuesday that five Chinese coast guard ships entered into restricted waters around the nation’s sensitive Kinmen islands amid rising tensions between Taipei and Beijing.

A Taiwan minister added that the ships left shortly after being warned by the authorities.

This comes after China stepped up patrols in the waters off the coast of Taiwan’s Kinmen archipelago, days after two of its fishermen drowned while being chased by the Taiwanese coast guard, which accused the boat of trespassing.

The Chinese coastguard’s Fujian division said at the time they’ll regularly monitor the waters off the southern coast of the city of Xiamen – a few kilometres from Kinmen – to strengthen maritime law enforcement, said the coastguard’s spokesperson Gan Yu.

Meanwhile, Kuan Bi-ling, head of Taiwan’s Ocean Affairs Council which runs the coast guard, told the media that the Chinese boats left the area shortly after they were told to leave.

“The political significance is high, which is a form of a declaration of sovereignty,” she said.

Kinmen, an island with a significant Taiwanese military presence and a frontline just 3km away from Chinese shores, has a history of frequent skirmishes during the Cold War’s peak and is primarily patrolled by Taiwan’s coast guard in its surrounding waters.

However, last week, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry announced that it was not increasing its military presence on the islands near China, including the Matsu archipelago north of Kinmen.

Taiwan’s defence minister Chiu Kuo-cheng expressed his hope in parliament for a non-escalatory resolution to the situation around Kinmen, emphasising a desire to avoid combat.

“We don’t want to see any combat conditions occur,” he said.

Last week, six Chinese coast guard officers boarded a Taiwanese tourist boat with 23 passengers and 11 crew members in Kinmen islands.

They stayed on the sight-seeing ferry King Xia for half an hour, checking route plans, certificates and crew licences before leaving, Taiwan‘s coast guard said.

In response, a Taiwan coast guard patrol arrived to escort King Xia back to port

“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 told reporters on the sidelines of parliament in Taipei then.

Additional reporting with agencies