TAIPEI (Reuters) – Chinese officials boarded and then seized a Taiwanese fishing boat operating near China’s coast close to a Taiwan-controlled island and took it to a Chinese port, the Taiwan coast guard said late on Tuesday in a further escalation of tensions.

China views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory and has ramped up pressure on Taipei since President Lai Ching-te took office in May, a man Beijing accuses of being a “separatist”.

The fishing boat was operating near the Taiwan-administered Kinmen islands, which sit next to the Chinese cities of Xiamen and Quanzhou, on Tuesday night when it was boarded and seized by two Chinese maritime administration boats, Taiwan’s coast guard said.

Taiwan sent it own coast guard ships to assist and broadcast warnings asking China to release the fishing boat, but China’s ships broadcast back saying not to interfere, Taiwan’s coast guard said in a statement.

Taiwan’s ships then backed off to avoid a conflict and the Taiwanese fishing vessel was then taken to a Chinese port, it added.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office did not answer calls seeking comment outside of office hours.

Chinese maritime enforcement and coast guard ships have been regularly operating around Kinmen since February after two Chinese fishermen died trying to flee Taiwan’s coast guard.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Josie Kao)

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