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China declares it will board ships in Taiwan Strait; Taiwan says it will resist

Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Lan Hongguang/Xinhua/Sipa USA/TNS)
April 06, 2023

China will be boarding and inspecting cargo ships in the Taiwan Strait as part of its new operation launched in the wake of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s Wednesday visit with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

Taiwan has blasted the move, saying it lodged a complaint with China and declaring that it will not cooperate with any Chinese searches. Instead, Taiwan’s coast guard will be called to the scene of any attempted inspection, the Maritime and Ports Bureau of the island nation’s Transport Ministry stated, according to Reuters.

“If the mainland side insists on taking one-sided actions, it will create obstacles to normal exchanges between the two sides. We will be forced to take corresponding measures,” the bureau added.

China’s announcement did not rule out any particular country’s ships for inspection, leaving open the possibility of U.S. ships being boarded for inspection.

China aims to complete the inspections during a three-day operation in the central and northern regions of the Taiwan Strait, which it announced yesterday ahead of McCarthy and Tsai’s meeting at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.

Referred to as a special joint patrol and inspection operation, it was launched by China’s Fujian maritime safety administration. The administration said there would be “on-site inspections” of direct cargo and construction ships “to ensure the safety of vessel navigation and ensure the safe and orderly operation of key projects on water.”

China and Taiwan split in 1949 in a civil war that never officially ended. Since then, China’s openly stated goal of reabsorbing the democratic and capitalist island has grown into one of the world’s most sensitive geopolitical flashpoints.

As Taiwanese president Tsai met Wednesday with McCarthy and 17 other members of a bipartisan House delegation, they discussed their shared values and views that democracy is under threat. 

In a statement, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the U.S. of undermining China via Taiwan and called the meeting another step “down the wrong and dangerous road,” according to a translation.

The U.S. officially describes its ties to Taiwan as a “robust unofficial relationship,” saying that it does not support Taiwan independence while opposing “any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side,” according to the State Department.