Taiwanese naval drill stokes tension with the Philippines
Destroyer, frigates and missile-carrying jets join coastguard ships off of the Philippines
Taiwan staged a naval drill near the northern Philippines yesterday after rejecting an apology by Manila and snubbing its special envoy following the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman.
In a show of military power, a Kidd-class destroyer and two Lafayette-class frigates joined a flotilla of coastguard vessels in crossing below 20 degrees north latitude in the overlapping "exclusive economic zones" of Taiwan and the Philippines during the joint drill, Taiwanese television reported.
Two missile-carrying Mirage 2000-5 jet fighters also took part in the exercise, which included a simulation of an operation in which a rescue helicopter was dispatched from Taiwan to airlift a fisherman to safety, while an anti-submarine S-70C helicopter conducted a patrol, reports said.
"The drill is aimed at practising joint patrols between the navy and the coastguard in protecting our fishermen, as well as maritime rescue operations," Taiwanese defence ministry spokesman Luo Shou-he said.
Luo declined to comment on whether the vessels had sailed into the waters about 170 nautical miles south of Taiwan, where Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng, 65, was killed by the Philippine coastguard last week.
The shooting outraged the Taiwanese public and prompted President Ma Ying-jeou to demand a formal apology and impose sanctions on Manila.
On Wednesday, Philippine President Benigno Aquino sent his personal envoy to Taiwan to express the Philippine people's deep regret and apologise to Hung's family over the "unfortunate and unintended" incident.
Insisting that it was an act of "intentional slaughter", as evidenced by the many bullet holes in the Taiwanese fishing boat, including more than 18 in the cabin where Hung and his three crew mates had hid. Taiwanese Premier Jiang Yi-huah said yesterday that his government found Manila's response "unacceptable".
Jiang also said Taiwan would fight to the very end and he would not rule out new sanctions. A group of Taiwanese investigators left for Manila yesterday to try to join their Philippine counterparts in the probe into the case.
Aquino's special envoy, Amadeo Perez, was refused a meeting with Taiwan's foreign minister, David Lin, and Hung's family also refused to meet Perez yesterday. He then returned to Manila, empty handed. The TVBS cable news channel said Perez had a difficult time trying to find a five-star hotel in Taipei. Manila's representative office in Taipei eventually found him a business-class one. Some restaurant and supermarket staff have reportedly refused to serve Filipinos.