June 15, 2024

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Chinese research ships increase activity near Taiwan

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Chinese maritime research vessels have dramatically increased incursions into waters just 24 nautical miles off Taiwan’s coast, as Beijing signals its growing surveillance capabilities and collects data crucial for naval warfare.

The latest operations include an unprecedented sailing by China’s newest research ship, a drone carrier with links to the People’s Liberation Army, down the full length of Taiwan’s east coast in November.

The Zhu Hai Yun’s voyage was one of nine such intrusions since September, a sharp uptick from just two in each of the previous three years, according to tracking data of nearly 80 ships from Spire Global, a satellite data company, analysed by the Financial Times.

“This represents one more tool the People’s Republic of China is using in what I call the all-domain pressure campaign against Taiwan,” said Christopher Sharman, director of the China Maritime Studies Institute at the US Naval War College.

Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, states may claim a contiguous zone up to 24 nautical miles from their coastline, giving them resource rights and jurisdiction over the surface and floor of that ocean area.

But due to Beijing’s sovereignty claim over Taiwan and its waters — which Beijing threatens to enforce militarily if Taipei resists submitting to its control indefinitely — Taipei cannot resort to protection by this international legal framework.

China frequently uses vessels operated by government and military-affiliated research institutes to assert its claims in disputed waters, sailing close to oil exploration sites inside the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam and Malaysia in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety.

Maritime research vessels can measure water temperature, salinity and ocean currents and map the seabed — data which can be used for a broad…

2024-02-26 16:03:20

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