Chinese man who sailed into a strategic river mouth in Taiwan was acting on his own, China says

BEIJING (AP) — The Chinese government said Wednesday that a Chinese man who sailed a small boat into a strategic river mouth in Taiwan was acting on his own and would be punished after his return to China.

Taiwanese authorities have detained the man, who has been identified as a 60-year-old former Chinese naval officer surnamed Ruan, according to Taiwan's official Central News Agency. His reported military background raised suspicion that the voyage might have been an attempt by China to test Taiwan’s detection and defense capabilities.

“This is purely his personal behavior," said Chen Binhua, the spokesperson for China's Taiwan Affairs Office.

The authorities from Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party “do not need to be paranoid, make a fuss and engage in political manipulation,” Chen said in response to a question at a news conference.

China claims self-governing Taiwan as its territory and says the island must come under its control. The Chinese military regularly sends warplanes and ships toward the island and staged a large exercise with dozens of aircraft and vessels last month.

The small boat was detected off Taiwan's coast on Sunday but apparently was not interdicted until it began interfering with ferry traffic across the Tamsui River, which leads to the capital, Taipei, and flows into the 160-kilometer (100-mile) -wide strait that separates Taiwan and China.

The Taiwan Strait is a key transit point for global commerce but is also known for its winds and tides, raising speculation over whether the small boat made it on its own from the Chinese coast or was launched from a larger vessel.

Transport links have been restored between the sides over the past two decades, but China's ruling Communist Party keeps tight restrictions on where serving and retired officials can travel.