Taiwan says it backed down from retrieving one of its fishing vessels seized by China to avoid escalation

Taiwan says it backed down from retrieving one of its fishing vessels seized by China to avoid escalation

  • China seized a Taiwanese fishing boat it says was trespassing in its waters.

  • Taiwan’s Coast Guard rushed its patrol boats to the scene, but stood down to avoid conflict.

  • The incident highlights rising maritime tensions between China and Taiwan.

Taiwan is calling for the release of one of its fishing boats and its crew after Chinese authorities boarded and seized it on Tuesday, according to multiple reports.

Taiwan’s Coast Guard said it rushed two patrol boats to the scene of the seizure of the Dajinman 88, but China’s ships blocked them and broadcast a message saying not to interfere.

It said that after about an hour, Taiwan’s Coast Guard boats stood down to avoid an escalation.

The boat was in the Taiwan Strait, just off China’s coast and not far from the Taiwanese island of Kinmen. The boat was in Chinese waters, and was fishing for squid during a period that China bans it, Reuters reported, citing officials.

Taiwan is now calling for the release of the sailors and the vessel itself, with a top Coast Guard official urging China not to use “political factors” in handling the situation, Reuters reported.

Rising maritime tensions

Both China and Taiwan have previously seized each other’s boats when they were suspected of trespassing, but the latest incident illustrates growing maritime tensions between them.

China views Taiwan as its own territory, and has laid claim to much of the South China Sea, which is a major shipping route.

Last month, China also enacted a law allowing its Coast Guard to seize foreign vessels suspected of trespassing in its waters.

According to NPR, China has ramped up patrols in the Strait of Taiwan in the last two years in order to lay pressure on the tiny island of Kinmen.

The island sits far closer — about five miles — to China than it does to the Taiwanese mainland, some 185 miles to the southeast. It’s one of several Taiwanese islands whose distance from the mainland makes them vulnerable to Chinese aggression, as Business Insider’s Benjamin Brimelow reported.

“With each stage, it normalizes this idea that there really is no such thing as a buffer between Taiwan and China,” Gregory Poling, South China Sea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told NPR.

Grayzone provocations

Tensions were worsened in February after two Chinese fishermen died off the coast of Kinmen as Taiwanese coastal authorities chased them, as The Guardian reported at the time.

Tuesday’s incident is China’s latest maritime skirmish, coming just a few days after the Chinese coast guard clashed with a Filipino boat in the South China Sea.

Sari Arho Havrén, an associate fellow specializing in China’s foreign relations at the Royal United Services Institute, characterized the actions as one of China’s many maritime “grayzone” provocations, which threaten its adversaries but which remain under the threshold of an act of war.

That incident was an example of China’s attempts to “exhaust” other countries into recognizing its maritime claims, she told Business Insider.

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