Taiwan Reports 241 Incidents Of Chinese Incursions In June; Comes After Ex-Navy Captain ‘Tests’ Its Defenses

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense has claimed to have tracked 23 Chinese military aircraft and seven naval vessels around Taiwan between 6 a.m. on Wednesday (June 12) and 6 a.m. on Thursday (June 13). So far this month, Taiwan has tracked Chinese military aircraft 132 times and naval/coast guard vessels 109 times.

According to the MND, 19 of the 23 People’s Liberation Army aircraft crossed the median line and entered the country’s eastern and southwestern air defense identification zone (ADIZ). In response, Taiwan dispatched fighters and naval ships and deployed coastal-based missile systems to observe PLA activity.

Meanwhile, in yet another bizarre incident in Taiwan, a Chinese man was arrested by the island’s authorities after he illegally entered Taiwanese waters on his speedboat.

Taiwanese officials announced on June 11 that the accused Chinese man was detained and was a former navy captain. They stated that it was likely that the Chinese man was testing the island’s defenses.

According to reports, despite Taiwan’s detection, no action was taken against the little boat until it started obstructing ferry traffic over the Tamsui River. The river drains into the 160-kilometer (100-mile) wide strait that separates Taiwan and China and connects to the capital city of Taipei.

The man was described as being “quite refined and well presented” by Kuan Bi-ling, Chairman of Taiwan’s Ocean Affairs Council, in charge of the coast guard. The arrested man has since been identified as a 60-year-old former Chinese naval officer named Ruan.

While the Chinese Ministry of National Defense did not comment on the charges immediately, it released a statement on June 12 saying that the arrested man was acting on his own and would be punished by the Chinese authorities upon his return. “This is purely his behavior,” said Chen Binhua, the spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office.

When probed at a news conference, Chen said that the authorities from Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party “do not need to be paranoid, make a fuss and engage in political manipulation.”

It is unclear if the small boat traveled from the Chinese coast on its own or if it was launched from a larger vessel because the Taiwan Strait is a vital transit route for international trade and is well known for its winds and tides.

China, on its part, considers Taiwan as a renegade Chinese province which it has vowed to unite with the Chinese mainland. The incident comes when tensions between the self-ruled island Taiwan and China are at an all-time high.

Speaking to reporters at the parliament, Taiwan’s Minister of Defense, Wellington Koo, suggested that the boat incident might be another instance of China’s “grey zone” tactics against the island.

In recent times, Taiwan has voiced concerns regarding China’s use of “grey zone warfare”, based on the premise that the enemy must be exhausted without resorting to a direct armed confrontation. China’s regular incursions close to the island and moves like deploying spy balloons have been flagged as part of this ongoing “grey zone” campaign against Taipei.

This is not the first time that an incident as bizarre as this has happened to Taiwan. According to Kuan, there have been about 18 such cases in the last year, most of them around the Taiwan-controlled islands that lie close to the Chinese coast. Referring to the island’s capability to intercept these vessels, she said, “Looking at the accumulated cases in the past, we can’t rule out that this is a test.”

Chinese fishing boats are often detected and expelled from Taiwan’s frontline islands. In February this year, tensions between the two sides came to a head when two Chinese fishermen died while being chased by the Taiwanese Coast Guard off the coast of Kinmen, where the fishermen were allegedly trespassing.

Chinese fishing boats and other vessels operating in Taiwan-controlled waters have regularly drawn criticism from Taiwan, particularly in the area surrounding the Kinmen and Matsu islands, which are close to the Chinese coast. The incident left the Chinese leadership fuming. However, it also exposed the growing presence of Chinese nationals in Taiwan’s waters.

In addition to the arrest of the accused Chinese national, Taiwan has also tightened the noose around the Taiwanese Coast Guard by reprimanding officers over the Chinese man’s incursion.

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Taiwan Coast Guard Reprimanded 

After the incident became known, Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration (CGA) acknowledged its negligence and reprimanded about 10 officials.

CGA Director-General Chang Chung-lung stated, during a press conference, that after a thorough assessment, it was determined that human negligence, not flaws in the monitoring system, was the root of the issue.

Chang made the comments in response to harsh criticism leveled at the administration for its failure to stop the Chinese national’s speedboat. The administration is in charge of protecting Taiwan’s territorial seas.

The speedboat’s operators did not contact the Coast Guard until after it collided with other boats at a Tamsui ferry port. According to the director-general, radar operators mistook the speedboat for a fishing boat from Taiwan that was making its way back to Tamsui, where it was registered.

On February 14, Taiwanese coast guard personnel examine a boat that overturned following a chase off the shore of the Kinmen archipelago. (AP via Taiwan Coast Guard Administration) ©

According to the CGA, ten people were reprimanded with warnings or demerits. Among them were Liao Te-sheng, the Commander of the Coast Guard’s Patrol Division, staff members in charge of radar operations, and those employed at a coastal lookout site.

According to CGA Deputy Head Hsieh Ching-chin, who was also present at the press conference, Ruan’s 9-meter speed boat was first spotted that day at about six nautical miles (11 kilometers) off the shore of Tamsui by operators at the Shalun radar station. However, at that time, the operators mistook it for a Taiwanese fishing vessel.

Hsieh concurred with Chang, stating that carelessness and bad judgment were the root causes of the disaster and that the Coast Guard surveillance system was not the issue. This underscored the robustness of the Taiwanese defenses.