China says no banned areas around Taiwanese islands after two killed

18 February, 2024
China says no banned areas around Taiwanese islands after two killed
There are no off-limits or restricted areas for fishing around a group of Taiwanese islands close to China's coast, and Beijing reserves the right to take further measures after two Chinese nationals died near the islands, the government said.

Taiwan on Thursday (Feb 15) defended the actions of its coast guard after two people on a Chinese speedboat, which got too close to a frontline Taiwanese island, died when their boat overturned while trying to flee a coast guard ship. Two others survived.

Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, has complained in recent years about Chinese fishing boats and other vessels operating in Taiwan-controlled waters, especially around the Kinmen and Matsu islands, which sit a short distance from China's coast.

Late on Saturday, China's Taiwan Affairs Office, which has already condemned Taipei for the incident near Kinmen's Beiding islet, said the deaths had caused "strong indignation" in China. "Fishermen on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have been operating in traditional fishing grounds in the Xiamen-Kinmen maritime area since ancient times, and there is no such thing as 'prohibited or restricted waters'," it said.

Kinmen, controlled by Taiwan since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, sits next to China's Xiamen and Quanzhou cities.

China's Taiwan Affairs Office said the government had goodwill towards Taiwan's people, but will never tolerate Taiwan's disregard for the safety of Chinese fishermen.

"The mainland reserves the right to take further measures, and Taiwan shall bear all the consequences," it added, without elaborating.

Kinmen was the site of frequent fighting during the height of the Cold War but is today a popular tourist destination, though many of the islets which are part of the island group are heavily fortified by Taiwan's military and off limits to civilians.

Taiwan, whose government rejects Beijing's sovereignty claims, says China has been using so-called grey-zone warfare, which entails using irregular tactics to exhaust a foe without actually resorting to open combat, including sending civilian ships into or close by Taiwanese waters.

Separately on Saturday, a group of low-level Chinese officials from Shanghai arrived in Taipei to attend the city's traditional Lantern Festival at the city government's invitation.

However, Taipei Mayor Chiang Wan-an told reporters he would not meet the group, led by Xu Hao, head of the liaison department of the Taiwan Affairs Office's Shanghai branch.

Last year, a deputy chief of the office's Shanghai branch went to Taipei for the same event, and was met by noisy protests at the airport.
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