Taiwan: Chinese ships cut two undersea cables to archipelago

The Matsu Islands are off the coast of China but are part of Taiwan. Both internet cables there have now been severed. It’s far from the first time.

The cable connection of the Matsu Islands (above) (Image: TeleGeography’s Submarine Cable Map, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Chinese ships have once again cut undersea cables supplying internet to a Taiwanese archipelago off the Chinese coast. The first of two internet cables between the Matsu Islands and Taiwan was severed by a Chinese fishing boat on February 2, the AP news agency reports. Six days later, a Chinese cargo ship cut the second connection, AP quoted operator Chunghwa Telecom as saying. For the population of the archipelago, this results in major restrictions and for Taiwan as a whole, this once again makes the vulnerability of the infrastructure clear. In the past five years, the cables have already been severed 27 times, it is said.

Close to China, far from Taiwan

The 19 Matsu Islands lie just a few tens of kilometers off the coast of mainland China and nearly 200 kilometers from Taiwan. A total of about 12,000 people live there. They are connected to the Internet via two undersea cables, both of which lead to the north of the island of Taiwan. They are apparently cut regularly, but the Taiwan government has not officially blamed China so far, the AP writes. “We cannot rule out that China cut the cables on purpose,” the news agency quoted the cautious assessment of defense expert Su Tzu-yun from the Institute for National Defense and Security Research. But the scale of the disruption is highly unusual, adds Geoff Huston of the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre.

The two cables that have now been severed will not be repaired until April 20 at the earliest, the AP continues. Only then can the first special ship arrive there? The repair will cost at least $1 million. Meanwhile, local people are trying to get online in other ways. Chunghwa Telecom has set up a microwave radio link to Taiwan as a backup, but it is quite slow and unreliable. That’s why some people bought SIM cards from China, but they only work in certain places. A couple who rent accommodations even want to send someone to Taiwan. The person should take care of the online reservations there and then pass on the data via SMS.

China regards Taiwan (or the Republic of China) as part of its own territory and officially aims for “reunification”. The so-called Taiwan conflict has recently intensified again with the tensions between China and the USA, which act as Taiwan’s protecting power. At the same time, in the course of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, it became clear what strategic advantages resilient communication infrastructures offer. Taiwan, therefore, wants to build its own alternative to the Starlink satellite internet, which is largely immune to attacks. The cutting of the undersea cables has once again made it clear how vulnerable the classic Internet infrastructure is.


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