The Ministry of National Defense (MND) yesterday said that it monitored all maritime activity in the Taiwan Strait and dismissed a news report that the armed forces had failed to recognize a Chinese “spy” vessel that sought shelter at Kaohsiung Harbor during bad weather.
“The military fully monitors all ships and vessels passing through the Taiwan Strait, regardless of their nationality,” the ministry said in a press release.
Earlier the same day, the Chinese-language Apple Daily reported that a Panama-flagged ship, the Sui Jiu 201, had sailed from China to Kaohsiung Harbor on Feb. 2 and left the following day.
Other reports said the ship, which operates in the South China Sea, had departed from Qingdao in Shandong Province and passed by the Sea of Japan (also known as the East Sea) on its way to waters off Kaohsiung.
The Apple Daily claimed the vessel was in close contact with the People’s Liberation Army Navy and was used to collect intelligence.
Online information shows that the Sui Jiu 201 is a salvage ship operated by the Guangzhou Salvage Bureau, under the Chinese Ministry of Transport.
The Ministry of National Defense confirmed that the vessel was registered with the People’s Republic of China government, but said it entered Kaohsiung Harbor because of inclement weather, as per international laws of the sea.
The Kaohsiung Harbor Bureau said the ship never entered the inner harbor and that it remained under radar observation at all times.
The incident drew criticism from local military experts and politicians, who warned that the move could be an act of espionage.
The Sui Jiu’s voyage coincided with a naval exercise involving four PLAN missile boats in the west Pacific, to the rear of Taiwan. The four frigates passed through the Strait of Miyako, between Miyako Island and Okinawa, and about 300km off the northern part of Taiwan, on Feb. 3 on their way to the Pacific.
It is not known whether the two events were related.