Taiwan expels 3,969 Chinese sand-thieving ships
Windowofworld.com – Taiwan expelled 3,969 Chinese ships that illegally dredged sand from its waters in 2020. The number of ships that thieves sand has increased more than six times from the previous year as Beijing seeks to increase pressure on the democratic island.
China has taken an increasingly aggressive tone towards Taiwan under President Xi Jinping – especially over the past 12 months with Beijing fighter jets and bombers buzzing near the island.
But the waters around Taiwan have become another hot zone.
Taiwan’s coast guard told AFP they recorded a large spike of Chinese sand dredgers illegally entering its waters.
As of November last year, Taiwan’s coast guard had repelled 3,969 Chinese sand dredgers. In 2019, about 600 Chinese sand dredgers were evicted and in 2018 71 ships were evicted.
China’s leaders view Taiwan as their territory and have promised to one day seize it, by force if necessary.
Beijing has ramped up economic and diplomatic pressure since Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016, as the woman leader rejected the idea that the island was part of a “one China” policy.
Chinese fighter jets registered a record 380 attacks on Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) last year as analysts warned tensions were at their highest since the mid-1990s.
Beijing is outraged by Taipei’s dramatically warming ties with Washington under former president Donald Trump who used the island as leverage as he clashed with China on a number of issues.
Following last week’s inauguration of US President Joe Biden – who was invited by Taipei’s de facto ambassador – Beijing sent a fleet of fighter jets and bombers to ADIZ Taiwan on Saturday and Sunday.
On the same day a US carrier strike group sailed into the South China Sea for a “freedom of navigation” exercise.
China has long used civilian vessels – supported by a coast guard – to suppress its territorial claims in disputed waters and harass neighboring vessels in what analysts call a “gray zone” tactic.
In the South China Sea, fishing vessels and dredgers are used as Beijing picks up and then builds military installations on atolls and islands in highly contested waters.
Taiwan’s Matsu Islands, located just about 20 kilometers from mainland China, are often a flashpoint for Chinese dredges.
Lii Wen, director of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (PDP) in the Matsu islands, said; “China is exerting pressure in a non-military way and we must respond cautiously through law enforcement and law enforcement agencies.”
“Illegal dredging could pose a non-traditional security threat to Taiwan by causing economic and environmental damage as well as civil conflict,” he told AFP, Tuesday (26/1/2021).
Taiwan’s parliament last month passed stricter law amendments to impose a maximum prison sentence of seven years and a fine of TWD100 million for illegal excavation of sand and gravel in coastal waters.