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Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

Taiwan and China have initiated a joint search-and-rescue operation aimed at locating two missing crew members following the capsizing of a Chinese fishing vessel near an outlying Taiwanese island. The incident, which occurred on Thursday, resulted in the loss of two lives, as reported by Taipei’s coast guard.

Upon receiving a distress call at approximately 6 am Thursday (2200 GMT Wednesday), the coast guard swiftly mobilized patrol vessels to respond to the sinking of a fishing boat carrying six individuals, situated 1.07 nautical miles southwest of Kinmen Islands’ Dongding islet. While two crew members were successfully rescued, two others were tragically found unresponsive, according to a statement issued by Taiwan’s coast guard.

This joint operation unfolds against the backdrop of heightened tensions in cross-strait relations, exacerbated by a similar incident a month prior, wherein the pursuit of a Chinese fishing boat by the Taiwanese coast guard resulted in the loss of two lives. Beijing’s claim of sovereignty over Taiwan, juxtaposed with Taiwan’s independent governance, underscores the delicate geopolitical dynamics at play.

Administered by Taipei, Kinmen stands merely five kilometers (three miles) from the Chinese city of Xiamen, emphasizing the strategic significance of the region. Coast guard chief Chou Mei-wu underscored that the ill-fated fishing boat had ventured “0.3 nautical miles within Taiwan’s prohibited or restricted waters,” highlighting the complexities of maritime jurisdiction.

Efforts to locate the missing crew members are being expedited within the critical “golden rescue time” window of 72 hours, as emphasized by Chou during a parliamentary session. He also referenced previous instances of cooperation between Chinese and Taiwanese authorities in joint rescue missions, underscoring the potential for collaboration in humanitarian endeavors.

Taiwan’s Premier Chen Chien-jen commended the ongoing rescue operation, citing past successes as evidence of the constructive engagement between China and Taiwan in matters of humanitarian aid. As search and rescue efforts persist into the evening, Taiwan’s coast guard remains steadfast in its commitment to locating the missing individuals amidst challenging maritime conditions.

The recent incident echoes a similar episode from last month, where a Chinese fishing boat capsized near Kinmen during a pursuit by Taiwan’s coast guard, resulting in casualties and diplomatic tensions. As both sides navigate the complexities of maritime enforcement and territorial disputes, the collaborative search for the missing fishermen serves as a poignant reminder of the imperative for cooperation and goodwill in the face of adversity.

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