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TAICHUNG:  Taiwan’s President Lai Ching-te ( C ) listens to a military official during an inspection of new conscripts at a military base in Taichung. – AFP
TAICHUNG: Taiwan’s President Lai Ching-te ( C ) listens to a military official during an inspection of new conscripts at a military base in Taichung. – AFP

Taiwan says China coast guard harass fishing boat

TAIPEI: Taiwan accused China on Thursday of harassing one of its fishing boats in waters near the Penghu islands, a day after Beijing seized a Taiwanese vessel over alleged “illegal fishing”. The Taiwanese coast guard said it dispatched three patrol ships late Wednesday after receiving a call from a fishing boat that was “interfered with and approached by” an unspecified number of Chinese coast guard vessels.

The incident occurred 60 nautical miles (111 kilometres) northwest of Penghu, an archipelago in the Taiwan Strait, and outside of Taiwan’s “restricted waters”, the coast guard said. The boat later reported it had left the area and “was not pursued by Chinese coast guard again”, the force said in a statement, adding it had strengthened patrols in the area. The incident comes as Taipei urged Beijing to immediately release a fishing boat carrying two Taiwanese and three Indonesians seized by the Chinese coast guard close to Taiwan’s outlying Kinmen islands. The boat, suspected of illegal fishing off the coast of Quanzhou in China’s Fujian province, was inspected and detained on Tuesday, according to a Chinese coast guard spokesman.

But Taiwan’s Fisheries Agency insisted that the area where the incident took place was a “traditional fishing ground” for both sides. China claims self-ruled democratic Taiwan as part of its territory and has not renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. It has ramped up pressure on Taiwan in recent years, and conducted military drills around the island days after the May 20 inauguration of new Taiwanese leader Lai Ching-te.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said Thursday it had detected 30 Chinese warplanes and eight naval vessels around the island in a 24-hour period ending at 6:00 am (2200 GMT Wednesday). In February, the capsizing of a Chinese fishing boat while it was being pursued by Taiwan’s coast guard further strained relations, after a survivor reportedly said the boat was “rammed”. Taiwan said its coast guard was following legitimate procedures after the Chinese vessel entered “prohibited waters”. – AFP

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