*

Taiwan Coast Guard Arrest Chinese Individual Who Drove Speed Boat Into Tamsui Harbor

Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin completed his undergraduate and graduate education at a Texas university and has studied extensively in China. As a former Marine Corps intelligence analyst, he worked in the Indo-Pacific region. His areas of expertise include PLA modernization, particularly PLAN/PLANMC and its expeditionary capabilities, as well as CCP and Chinese domestic politics. He also runs the Sino Talk brand on Instagram and Twitter and is the IndoPacific Desk Chief for Atlas.

More From Me

On June 9th, personnel from the Taiwan Coast Guard (TCG) intercepted a Chinese individual driving a small speedboat directly into the mouth of the Tamsui River, located near the city of New Taipei. The TCG detained the individual after the incident and interrogated him to determine why he entered Taiwan illegally. He was then transported to the Immigration Department’s New Taipei City Special Task Force (NTCSTF) to await repartition.

June 9th Incident

The incident occurred at 11 a.m. local time when the TCG’s Third Patrol Area Headquarters’ Sharon Radar detected a “suspicious target” six nautical miles (11 kilometers) from the mouth of the Tamsui River Defense Zone (TRDZ). The headquarters also received reports from local citizens and tourists about the suspicious vessel. The boat then entered the Tamsui River Terminal and collided with a ferry carrying tourists before docking at the wharf. The local TCG branch sent a patrol boat and officers to intercept the small boat and arrest the suspect. Officers from the Tamsui No. 2 Fishing Port Security Inspection Station went to the terminal, where they arrested the individual. The officers also confiscated the boat after the incident.

Google Maps image of direction (Red Arrow) where the Chinese nation drove the speedboat as he attempted to enter Taiwan illegally (Photo: UDN/Google Earth, Hong Zhezheng)

TCG officers interrogated the man and then transported him to the Shilin District Prosecutor’s Office for further investigation. Prosecutors interrogated the individual and said he violated the Immigration and Immigration Act and the Ordinance on Relations between the People of Taiwan and the Mainland Area. The Chinese national could receive a prison sentence of no more than five years and face a fine of no more than $15,500 USD (NT$500,000). The TCG transferred the individual to the NTCSTF for detention, and he will be repatriated once a timetable is determined.

Chinese National

The Chinese individual’s name is Ruan Nan, and he is reportedly a 60-year-old person from Fuzhou, Fujian Province. He said the reason for his attempt to enter Taiwan illegally was to “flee to freedom” and from persecution. Ruan said he illegally entered the island because he posted comments on WeChat with his cell phone, and Chinese authorities restricted him from leaving the country. The individual allegedly sailed the motorboat from Fuzhou, located in China, and went straight to Taiwan. However, other reports indicate that Ruan rode a larger ship from the city until it passed the Median Line and then boarded the small motorboat to illegally enter Taiwan.

A picture of Ruan Nan being escorted by a TCG coastguardsman and police officer into the Shilin District Prosecutor’s Office after his interrogation

Taiwan’s Maritime Affairs Council Chairman Guan Bi-ling gave an interview on June 11th, where she provided details about the incident and Ruan. She admitted that the local TCG officers were “negligent in their duties.” For example, the officer initially thought it was a fishing trawler because the ship was heading for a port. The Chairman said the TCG officer waited before intercepting the boat because the boat was traveling at high speed. The vessel reached New Taipei’s Bali District before it docked at the terminal. Guan said the individual had “special experience,” was a People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Captain, and previously commanded a PLAN ship.

Guan said that while she does not rule out the Chinese individual using a mothership, the investigation favors Ruan directly sailing from the mainland since this “is more conducive to China’s testing the feasibility of a small boat sailing directly” to Taiwan. The Chairman also pointed out that Ruan deleted his navigation records while keeping only one or two charts, and the distance, fuel consumption, and speed pointed to the boat sailing directly from China. She mentioned how Ruan’s case is different from the 18 previous illegal crossings this year, specifically how he was “polite, well-dressed, and his experience was quite special.”

Taiwanese Defense Minister Gu Lixiong commented about the incident during an interview. Gu said he will discuss the incident with the TCG and that “there is no way to rule out the possibility that China wants to use gray areas to test the limits of what the Taiwanese government would accept.” The minister also said that the Taiwanese Army usually cooperates with the TCG but will discuss the incident with the organization. Gu said the TCG has the necessary coastal radar systems and is not a “wartime military operation.” The coast guard will be the first to respond to any incidents, with the Taiwanese military providing support. However, both the Taiwanese military and TCG will analyze, learn from the incident, increase, and improve security measures regarding the entry of small boats.

Analysis

While the investigation is ongoing, there are several issues regarding Ruan’s background and attitude during his arrest that conflict with previous defection cases. The incident, however, points to potential lapses in the TCG’s capabilities to detect and respond to vessels that enter the defense zones around strategic areas. Ruan’s behavior during his arrest piqued the Taiwanese authorities’ interest because it did not fit with how previous individuals acted when they defected to the island. Taiwanese authorities said he was polite and well-dressed, which does not fit with how previous individuals acted or dressed during their defections. Most defectors usually dress less formally during their defections and are more inclined to act less polite than Ruan did. Furthermore, Ruan’s statements about why he fled China are likely a ruse, so he could avoid increased scrutiny from authorities and avoid punishment. His comments match what previous defectors said, but given Ruan’s attitude during his arrest and interrogation, they are likely false.

Ruan’s story about how he traveled to Taiwan from China and his actions before authorities arrested him indicates he is being untruthful about certain parts. For example, there are conflicting reports regarding how Ruan crossed the Taiwan Strait. The first story is that he used a small boat to drive across the full length of the strait to get to Taiwan, while the other is that he sailed halfway across the Median Line and then used the boat to reach the island. Taiwanese authorities say the investigation, specifically the navigation records he did not delete, points to Ruan using the small boat to sail directly to Taiwan from China. However, one major issue is that the boat was equipped with one small outboard engine that would not have the fuel capacity to travel the full length of the Taiwan Strait. Ruan deleted most of the navigational records, which points to him attempting to hide the truth about how he reached Taiwan. For example, he could have deleted the records to prevent Taiwanese authorities from ascertaining how he successfully crossed the strait.

Taiwanese authorities are also interested in Ruan’s background because of his past as a PLAN Captain, a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) member, and a former commander of a naval vessel. Ruan’s background may point to his potential involvement in an intelligence collection mission against strategic defense zones along Taiwan’s western coast. The PLA is interested in determining how the TCG and the Taiwanese military would respond to potential threats in these areas to refine or develop operation plans for various missions. One plan would be for the PLA to send in squad-sized units to conduct reconnaissance against the Tamsui River mouth since the PLA would land in the area. The area surrounding the Tamsui River mouth would likely be the main effort of any amphibious invasion because it would allow the PLA to capture a strategic area to land follow-on forces. The location would also allow the PLA to conduct operations more rapidly against New Taipei and the capital city of Taipei. Another plan would be for the units to enter the country via the river in the leadup to any attack or blockade to assist in laser-designating targets and gathering intelligence for air and missile strikes.

The incident revealed that the TCG has lapses in its procedures to detect and respond to small vessels that enter the defense zones. The delayed response indicates that the TCG branch did not have any procedures specifying that it should deploy a patrol vessel to identify any ships it could not identify via radar. Furthermore, the delayed response also indicates some level of complacency in how the TCG unit responds to suspicious targets in the area. The Taiwanese military is concerned that the same lapses could allow a similar incident to occur in other strategic areas, such as the Keelung River Defense Zone or the ports at Taichung or Hsinchu. Furthermore, the 6th Army Corps, responsible for the defense of the cities of New Taipei and Taipei, would be especially sensitive to any lapses since they would allow the PLA to conduct decapitation strikes during any invasion. The Taiwanese military would likely respond by stationing a unit from the 101st Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion to guard the Tamsui River area as a preventative measure. Alternatively, the military could send a unit from the Amphibious Reconnaissance and Patrol Unit to guard the river area.

Latest