Mainland government officials yesterday boarded a Taiwanese coastguard frigate for the first time, in a rare joint search and rescue drill involving hundreds of crew members, Taiwan coast guards said.
Around 600 rescuers and coastguards from Taiwan and the mainland took part in the manoeuvre in waters near Kinmen, a Taiwan-controlled island group off the mainland's southeastern coastline, the Coast Guard Administration said.
A group of mainland officials led by deputy transport minister Xu Zuyuan watched the exercise on board the 2,000-tonne Taiwanese frigate, Tainan.
"It's the first time ever that [mainland] Chinese government officials [have] been on board a coastguard vessel from Taiwan," coastguard spokesman Hsieh Ching-chin said. "It's significant historically and symbolically."
Kinmen was the scene of bloody battles in the 1940s and 1950s when communist troops repeatedly tried to seize the fortified island group.
Yesterday's manoeuvre, only the second of its kind between the two sides, involved 18 rescue and coastguard vessels and two helicopters from Taiwan, while the mainland dispatched 11 ships and one helicopter.
The exercise played out a scenario where an aircraft crashed into the ocean, hitting a passenger boat shuttling between Kinmen and the mainland.
Beijing still considers Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though the island has governed itself since 1949.