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Ministry denies security risks from allowing in China ships

TAIPEI -- The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) denied Monday that a proposal to allow some Chinese ships to navigate in Taiwan's territorial waters poses any risk, pointing out that the plans specifically exclude Chinese military and fishing vessels.

The proposal has met with controversy because the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area states that no Chinese vessels may enter restricted or prohibited waters in Taiwan's territory unless permitted by the relevant authorities.

The MOTC statement came in response to a Monday report in the Liberty Times, which said the MOTC's changes to executive regulations would endanger national security by allowing all kinds of Chinese ships to navigate freely in the waters around Taiwan.

The report said that the ministry is aiming to allow Chinese vessels to navigate around Taiwan as long as they file an application 24 hours in advance.

The MOTC confirmed plans to make changes in its Monday statement, downplaying security concerns while arguing there is a need for laws to effectively manage ships passing through restricted waters amid the rapid development of shipping links with China, especially considering the importance of Taiwan's navigation channels for international shipping.

The ministry invoked the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, noting that Article 17 states that all countries' ships enjoy the right of innocent passage through territorial seas. It is “unreasonable” to impose specific restrictions only on Chinese ships, the MOTC said.

The changes would only allow Chinese passenger and cargo ships to navigate through restricted waters, while a ban on military ships and fishing boats will remain in place, the MOTC stressed.

The ministry is considering changes to regulations on ships in designated navigation channels in restricted waters, permit applications, commanding and dispatching of communications and navigation, and the establishment of ship check points.

The MOTC noted that the changes will require approval from the Executive Yuan.

Since the rules in question are administrative regulations and not laws, approval from the Legislature is not needed.

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