OAN Roy Francis
UPDATED 7:56 AM – Friday, March 10, 2023
Taiwan’s National Communications Commission (NCC) blamed two Chinese ships for cutting two of the island’s undersea internet cable, halting internet services for 14,000 people, and raising national security concerns.
The NCC claimed that a Chinese fishing vessel had severed the first cable about 50 kilometers (approximately 31 miles) off the coast. Then six days later, on February 8th, a Chinese cargo ship had cut the second cable.
Taiwan’s coast guard had chased away the fishing vessel that cut the first cable. The ship had gone back into Chinese waters. Su Tzu-Yun, a defense expert at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research said that China was the suspect.
“We can’t rule out that China destroyed these on purpose,” Tzu-Yun said. “Taiwan needs to invest more resources in repairing and protecting the cables.”
“The Chinese boats that damaged the cables should be held accountable and pay compensation for the highly expensive repairs,” Wen Lii, the head of the Matsu chapter of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said.
The 14,000 residents of Matsu, one of Taiwan’s islands that is closer to China, rely on the two cable for internet. When the cables were cut in February, the residents were struggling to connect to the internet to be able to pay their bills, make appointments, or any service that requires an internet connection.
“A lot of tourists would cancel their booking because there’s no internet. Nowadays, the internet plays a very large role in people’s lives,” Chen Yu-Lin, who owns a bed and breakfast, said.
The loss of the internet cables had much bigger national security implication for the island as well. Internet infrastructures are targeted in advance of an invasion in order to disrupt communications and cause confusion, as Russia had done before entering Ukraine. Experts suspect China of cutting the cables as part of its harassment campaign of the island that it considers its territory.
China regularly sends military planes and navy ships to the island as an intimidation tactic as it seeks to reunite the island nation under its rule. However, concerns of an invasion by China has significantly increased since the war in Ukraine had started.
The United States has recently increased it military presence on the island, more than quadrupling the number of troops previously stationed there as tensions between the U.S. and China have been on the rise. President Joe Biden has also promised to send military aid to the island to counter any attack by China should it take place.
However due to lack of direct evidence on Beijing, Taiwan had stopped short of blaming China on deliberately cutting the internet cables, which have been cut 27 times in the past five years.