Taiwan Suspects China of Cutting its Internet Cables

April 18, 2023

Taiwan’s National Communications Commission, citing its national telecom service, blamed two Chinese ships for cut internet cables.

The country’s suspicion is that a Chinese fishing vessel severed one cable roughly 30 miles out at sea, while a Chinese cargo ship cut a second cable. Both incidents are suspected of occurring in early February. 

The 14,000 residents of Matsu, one of Taiwan’s outlying islands closer to neighboring China, rely on these two submarine internet cables that lead to Taiwan’s main island.

The Matsu islanders have had to hook up to a limited internet via microwave radio transmission as back-up since the February incidents.

Taipei stopped short of calling the cut cables a deliberate act of sabotage, and has presented no evidence that the Chinese ships were responsible.

However, severed internet cables can potentially have huge implications for national security. Amid its invasion of Ukraine, Russia made taking out internet infrastructure one of the key parts of its strategy.

China has been saber-rattling for months around Taiwan, situated just 100 miles off the Chinese coast, including escalating military drills in the air and waters near the self-governing island.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory. Analysts say that China has been watching and waiting to see how Russia fares in its invasion of Ukraine before going forth with an assault against Taiwan. 

Some experts have suggested that China may have cut the cables deliberately as part of its harassment campaign against Taiwan, sending the message that it will be reunited with China by force if necessary.

The cables had been cut a total of 27 times in the past five years, but it was unclear which country the vessels hailed from, based on data from Taiwanese service provider Chunghwa Telecom.

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