(Taipei) Taiwan has strengthened its security measures, its prime minister said Tuesday following the arrest of a Chinese man who illegally entered the island aboard a small boat and was later identified as a former officer. Marine.

Security forces were ordered to “immediately strengthen protection measures,” Prime Minister Cho Jung-tai told reporters.

“The government as well as all national security units and teams are very attentive” to this incident, he added, specifying that an investigation was underway. “National security cannot be neglected for a single minute,” he continued.

The Taiwanese coast guard arrested the man on Sunday after a collision between his boat and other boats on the Tamsui River which connects the capital Taipei to the north coast of the island.  

The 60-year-old told the coast guard he wanted to “defect,” according to the semi-official Central News Agency.

According to Taiwan’s Maritime Affairs Minister Kuan Bi-ling, the man was a captain in the Chinese Navy and was one of 18 so-called defectors who arrived in the past year or so and all said they admired “Taiwan’s democratic way of life.” .

“We often encounter this kind of rhetoric […] We do not believe it and we will investigate all aspects of the issue,” she explained to journalists.

“What is different this time […] is that the man is more refined and better dressed with a more particular experience,” she added, referring to her service in the Navy. “We don’t rule out that this is a test.”

Taiwan is constantly on guard for potential Chinese spies.  

In April, a father and son were sentenced to eight years in prison for collecting classified military information and attempting to set up a spy “organization” for Beijing.  

The coast guard said the boat was spotted around 9 a.m. local time (9 p.m. Eastern Time) about 11 kilometers off the coast of Tamsui, a district on the outskirts of Taipei.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Coast Guard deputy chief Hsieh Ching-chin explained that personnel would be held responsible for failing to intercept the boat due to “error of judgment and negligence.” .

He said a radar operator incorrectly judged it to be a local fishing boat and it was not inspected.

In 2021, a Chinese man was arrested in the city of Taichung (center) after successfully crossing the Taiwan Strait aboard an inflatable boat. According to police, he said he came to Taiwan to seek “freedom and democracy.” He was deported to China in 2022, according to local media.

China considers that the autonomously governed island of Taiwan is part of its territory and says it is ready to reconquer it by force if necessary.  

Tensions across the Taiwan Strait have increased since the May 20 inauguration of new Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te.