In race to find missing fishermen, China and Taiwan team up

Coast guard vessels from both sides are searching for crew of a Chinese boat capsized near Kinmen islands.
By RFA Staff
2024.03.14
In race to find missing fishermen, China and Taiwan team up Taiwan Coast Guard personnel conducting a search for missing Chinese fishermen near Kinmen islands, March 14, 2024.
Taiwan Coast Guard

Taiwan and China coast guard ships are searching for missing crew members of a sunken Chinese fishing boat in a rare joint search-and-rescue operation that an analyst says may help reduce cross-strait tensions.

The fishing boat Minlongyu 61222 capsized early Thursday morning in the waters near Dongding, an islet within Kinmen islands under Taiwan’s control, according to the Taiwanese coast guard. Six crew of the boat went missing.

The coast guard dispatched four patrol boats to the area to join a rescue mission with Chinese mainland patrol vessels and helicopters.

The rescuers found four fishermen, two dead and two alive, and are still looking for two others. 

“This joint operation demonstrates the necessity of cross-strait cooperation,” said Shen Ming-Shih, an acting deputy chief executive officer at Taiwan’s Institute for National Defense and Security Research.“It may also help reduce the political impact of the incident last month.”

Taiwan coast guard 1.jpg
Taiwan Coast Guard personnel conducting a search for missing Chinese fishermen near Kinmen islands, March 14, 2024. (Taiwan Coast Guard)

Cross-Strait tensions rose when a Chinese boat capsized on Feb. 14, also in the waters near Kinmen islands after being confronted by the Taiwanese coast guard. Two Chinese fishermen died in the incident that was condemned by Beijing. 

A Chinese spokesperson at the time said the sinking of the fishing boat “sparked widespread outrage on the mainland, and severely hurt the feelings of compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.”

Taipei has maintained that the Chinese fishing boat was operating illegally in Taiwan’s territorial waters, just 1.1 nautical miles (2 kilometers) east of Kinmen.  

Both sides said they will “enforce the law” in the waters between Kinmen island and China’s mainland. 

Humanitarian effort

“The case this time is totally different,” said Shen from the Institute for National Defense and Security Research.  

“The location of the accident is not inside Taiwan’s restricted waters, and the boat was fishing legally.”

Taiwan and China have conducted joint rescue drills in the area in the past, according to the analyst who said that such operations are based on humanitarian considerations and should be maintained.

“China now needs to step down and not let the cross-Strait conflict escalate,” he added.

Taiwan authorities are still conducting an in-depth investigation into the February incident and will decide on concrete juridical measures after its completion.   

Kinmen is less than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from China’s Fujian province but more than 180 kilometers (112 miles) from Taiwan’s mainland.

In another development, 26 Chinese aircraft and ten naval vessels were tracked around Taiwan today, according to the defense ministry in Taipei. 18 of the aircraft entered the island’s de-facto air defense identification zone, or ADIZ.

An ADIZ is an area where foreign aircraft are tracked and identified before they reach a country’s airspace. 

This is the largest single-day total of ADIZ violations since last November.

Edited by Taejun Kang and Mike Firn.

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