Update: June 17, 2021 9:32 PM STI
Taipei [Taiwan], June 17 (ANI): Chinese dredgers close in on Taiwan’s Matsu Islands and enter Taiwan-controlled waters, spending hours pumping tons of sand from the ocean floor. They triggered panic over the inconvenience of residents, deteriorating coastlines, shrinking beaches and degradation of marine life.
At their peak, hundreds of these 2,000-ton ships made their presence felt in the waters off Matsu. Most locals say the dredgers have created fear since they started arriving in increasing numbers last year, Nikkei Asia reported.
In one evening, “we could see 300 or 400 dredgers,” said Lin Mei-hao, who runs a guesthouse on the main island, Nangan. “Their lights were shining at night. Everywhere you looked, there was light, there were boats dragging the sand, really hard,” he said.
Some say the Matsu Islands are now at the forefront of China’s new tactics: “gray zone” or hybrid warfare, actions that aim to exhaust, intimidate or provoke the enemy without firing a single shot.
Although China has denied allowing sand dredgers to operate illegally near Matsu, many Taiwanese officials and Matsu residents fear the ships will auction off from Beijing, which is one day seeking to bring Taiwan under its control.
Local politician Lii Wen, head of the local branch of the ruling Progressive Democratic Party (DPP) in Taiwan, sees dredges as a “gray area tactic, a non-military form of pressure, for the purpose of harassment and harassment. ‘intimidation”.
“China is getting smarter and more creative in the way it lobbies,” Lii said in an interview.
According to Nikkei Asia, the Matsu Islands are in a particularly precarious position as they are only 25 minutes by boat from the Chinese coast, much closer to the island of Taiwan. Matsu’s civilian coastguard has already removed 94 Chinese dredgers from Matsu’s waters in the first four months of this year.
However, many more dredges are found just outside the 6,000-meter area around the Matsu Islands, which Taiwan considers its restricted waters. China does not officially recognize any of Taiwan’s claims to sovereignty.
Dredgers remove huge amounts of sand from the ocean floor to fuel infrastructure and land reclamation projects in China. The leap of dredgers and their forays into Taiwan-controlled waters clashes with China’s growing assertion throughout the South China Sea, which is a major route for global shipping.
In addition to causing fear and noise pollution, locals complain that dredges have damaged Matsu’s beaches and marine life, Nikkei Asia reported.
Lin Tsung-yi, chairman of the geography department of National Taiwan Normal University, said that some fish, organisms and marine life that live on the seabed will not be able to adapt to the conditions created by dredging and that the process disrupts the ecosystem.
In May, Matsu’s coast guard expelled 38 Chinese ships – both sand dredgers and fishing boats – from its surrounding waters, according to a report by the state-run Central News Agency. However, this has had no effect as China continues to send its ships into Taiwan-controlled waters.
Beijing claims full sovereignty over Taiwan, a democracy of nearly 24 million people off the southeast coast of mainland China, even though the two sides have been governed separately for more than seven decades.
Tensions in the Taiwan Strait are escalating. China has stepped up political pressure and military threats against Taiwan, with almost daily incursions into the Taipei Air Defense Identification Zone.
The island was the scene of the largest daily incursion recently as more than two dozen Chinese military planes flew over the nation’s identified air defense zones (ADIZ) on Tuesday, the defense ministry said.
China recently passed a new law allowing its coast guard to fire at foreign vessels in areas that China considers its own territory.
Wang Ting-yu, a Taiwanese lawmaker and member of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and national defense, said China sends its fishermen and boats to surround the coast guards of other countries and relies on the countries Democrats would not dare use their navy or “the power of guns to strike Taiwan.”
At the same time, China has also stepped up pressure on Taiwan since President Tsai Ing-wen of the Independent Progressive Democratic Party came to power in 2016, who declared that Taiwan was already an independent country under its official name.
The Taiwanese government responded by stepping up coastguard patrols, toughening penalties for illegal dredging and commissioning new coastguard vessels. He also signed a memorandum of understanding with the United States to establish a Coast Guard task force to enhance cooperation, training and information sharing related to law enforcement.
According to Nikkei Asia, if China succeeds in gaining control of Taiwan, it would erode the United States’ strategic dominance in Asia-Pacific. If the United States did not come to Taiwan’s aid in the event of a Chinese invasion, it would lose all credibility with its regional allies and partners. (ANI)