Taiwan calls for calm after deadly incident

Security check: Taiwanese coast guards inspecting a vessel that capsized during a chase off the coast of Kinmen archipelago in Taiwan. — AP

Taiwan called on Beijing to “be rational” following a deadly incident involving a Chinese boat and a Taiwanese coast guard, with the island’s premier insisting it would protect its waters.

China claims self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory and relations between the two have plummeted in recent years.

Last week, two Chinese crew members died after a boat capsized near Kinmen, an island administered by Taipei but located just five kilometres from the mainland city of Xiamen.

It was being pursued by Taiwan’s coast guard for being within prohibited waters.

China announced stepped-up patrols around Taiwan’s waters, and on Monday, members of its coast guard briefly boarded a Taiwanese cruise ship to check the captain and passengers’ details.Taiwan’s Premier Chen Chien-jen said yesterday that both sides had been aware of “restricted and off-limits sea areas” since 1992.

“We will continue to protect these sea areas to ensure safety in our territorial waters and the rights of our fishermen,” he told reporters outside Taiwan’s parliament.

“We hope both sides can be rational, equitable and cooperate with each other to ensure the safety of the Kinmen-Xiamen waters so that people from both sides of the strait can engage with each other in a healthy and orderly manner.”

Taiwan’s defence minister said the military would not get involved, leaving it to the coast guard to monitor waters around Kinmen “because we want to avoid war”.

“Let’s handle the matter peacefully,” Chiu Kuo-cheng told reporters.

Beijing has stepped up military pressure on Taiwan by deploying warplanes and naval vessels around the island on a near-daily basis. — AFP

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