China is trying to break through the so-called "first island chain" -- which includes Taiwan -- in a bid to project its power into the Pacific Ocean, President Chen Shui-bian (
The president made the comments while inspecting the No. 14 wharf at Kaohsiung Harbor.
Chen also urged the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) to crack down vigorously on illegal trafficking during the Lunar New Year holiday, which begins at the end of this month.
Chen told hundreds of Coast Guard officials that China is using its growing economic and military might to pose a serious challenge to Taiwan's national security.
Last May, Chinese vessels twice intruded into Taiwanese waters in the region of the Pratus Islands. Moreover, due to China's anxiety about its energy resources, it is exploring and exploiting marine resources in the East China Sea and the South China Sea -- worsening tensions with countries who also have claims in those areas, Chen said.
"Taiwan's national security and sovereignty have been jeopardized by China's ambitious efforts to expand its influence into the Pacific Ocean. We have to take the situation seriously," Chen said.
According to Chen, China has long viewed the "first island chain" -- which extends from Japan to the Philippines -- as a barrier to Chinese naval operations in the Pacific. Taiwan, on the other hand, sees the the ocean as its portal to the world.
Chen said that cross-strait smuggling and illegal immigration organized by gangsters on both sides has imperiled social safety, economic stability and the control of infectious diseases in Taiwan.
"Especially during holidays of major lunar festivals, including Lunar New Year, illegally transported goods from China have further burdened our Coast Guard. This year, due to the outbreak of deadly bird flu in China, we have to tackle related criminal activities more aggressively," Chen said.
Last October, the H5N1 strain of bird flu was found in birds being smuggled from China into Taichung Harbor.
Chen said that the Coast Guard has significantly improved its ability to tackle cross-strait crime, and that the government would keep supporting its efforts.
"Early last year, the CGA even exposed a case involving the trading of national defense secrets," Chen said.
At the harbor yesterday, CGA showed off its special teams trained to seize smuggled goods and stop other criminal activities. Advanced vessels, trucks and aircraft were also displayed.