Chinese ships intrude into Taiwan waters near Kinmen island

Rare incursion took place two weeks before new president’s swearing-in.
By RFA Staff
2024.05.07
Chinese ships intrude into Taiwan waters near Kinmen island Chinese coast guard vessel number 14603 in waters near Kinmen on May 6, 2024.
Taiwan Coast Guard

Four Chinese vessels entered Taiwan’s territorial waters near the outlying island of Kinmen in a rare incursion, the Taiwanese coast guard said Tuesday. 

China Coast Guard (CCG) ships 14608, 14604, 14512 and 14603 sailed into the so-called prohibited waters south of Kinmen island at around 3:30 p.m. on Monday and stayed for more than an hour before being driven away, the coast guard said. 

The previous recent instance of a Chinese vessel trespassing into Kinmen’s prohibited waters – a civilian speedboat – was in February.

Taiwan-controlled Kinmen is less than 10 km (6.2 miles) from China’s Fujian province coast but more than 180 km (112 miles) from Taiwan’s main island.

The boundaries between the outer islands under Taiwan’s control and China’s mainland, called “prohibited waters” and “restricted waters,” were set by Taiwan in 1992 and have been tacitly respected by both sides, despite China never officially recognizing them. 

prohibited waters.jpg
“Prohibited” and “restricted” waters around the island of Kinmen, (Taiwan Central News Agency)

“Prohibited waters” refer to the territorial waters around Kinmen that extend about halfway to the Chinese coast, or roughly 4 km (2.5 miles) to the north and northwest. “Restricted waters” extend a little further, about 8 km (5 miles), to the south.

The CCG had in recent days “intensively” sent its vessels to “deliberately” sail into the waters near Kinmen, the Taiwanese coast guard said. The Chinese activities seriously affected peace and stability, as well as maritime navigation safety and traffic order in the Taiwan Strait, it said.

New normal

China, which claims Taiwan as its territory, has been stepping up its military exercises and air and sea patrols near the island over the past couple of years. 

“China’s incursions are becoming a norm,” said retired Taiwanese air force general Chang Yen-ting. “There is, unfortunately, no going back.”

“China will keep pushing forward around Taiwan, first Kinmen then Matsu and after that, Dongyin,” the general-turned-military analyst told Radio Free Asia, referring to some strategic outlying islands that Taiwan controls.

Just last week, the CCG announced that since April, its Fujian branch had begun to carry out “regular law enforcement patrols in the waters near Kinmen in accordance with the law.”

According to a CCG map issued with the announcement, the patrols had been conducted outside Kinmen’s prohibited waters.

The latest incursion occurred just two weeks before the inauguration of Taiwan’s new president, Lai Ching-te. His swearing-in ceremony is set for May 20.

Last week, National Security Bureau Director-General Tsai Ming-yen told Taiwan’s legislature that China may intensify military exercises after  the inauguration, adding that his office was closely watching to see whether Beijing will conduct more military exercises to put further pressure on Taiwan.

Kinmen.JPG
A child looks towards China's Xiamen city from the coast in Kinmen, Taiwan February 21, 2024. (Reuters/Ann Wang)

Taiwanese experts are divided on China’s intentions towards Taiwan’s outlying islands. 

Some think that in the event of hostilities, the outer islands would be targeted before any attack on Taiwan proper due to their proximity to China’s mainland.

Others say China would face a political dilemma should it first launch an assault on Kinmen or Matsu.

“Since it does not occupy Taiwan, it is meaningless to occupy the outer islands,” Su Tzu-yun, a senior analyst at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, told RFA.

Edited by Mike Firn.

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