Taiwan on Thursday staged a military exercise in waters near the northern Philippines in response to the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman, after rejecting repeated apologies for the death.
Philippine coastguards shot dead the 65-year-old last week after they said his vessel illegally sailed into Philippine waters. Outrage in Taiwan at the incident has grown amid a perceived lack of remorse in Manila.
A flotilla of one destroyer, two frigates and four coastguard ships sailed to the waters near Batan island to press Taiwan’s territorial claims in the area, defence authorities said.
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister David Lin and the fisherman’s family refused to meet a personal representative sent by President Benigno Aquino in a bid to contain the diplomatic fallout. He was due to return to Manila later on Thursday.
“I came to convey the president’s and the Filipino people’s deep regret and apology over the unfortunate and unintended loss of life,” Amadeo R Perez told reporters at the airport.
Perez is chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office which handles relations with Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties. The Philippines, like most countries, formally recognises China over Taiwan.
Taiwan has deemed it “unacceptable” that the death has been described as unintended by the Philippines.
Tensions mounted after Taiwan on Wednesday slapped sanctions on the Philippines, including a ban on the hiring of new workers, a “red” travel alert urging Taiwanese not to visit the Philippines and the suspension of exchanges between high-level officials, trade and academic affairs.
Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou reiterated on Thursday that the Philippines should take the responsibility over the fisherman’s death.
“I do hope they (the Philippines) will understand they have to be responsible in the international community. Shooting unarmed and innocent people in the open seas is not an act tolerated by civilised nations,” Ma said.
Taipei has repeatedly pressed Manila to issue a formal apology by its government, to compensate the fisherman’s family and to apprehend the killer.
It also rejected an initial apology on Wednesday by the Philippines’ de-facto ambassador.
Maritime tensions are already high over rival claims in the South China Sea, adjacent to where last Thursday’s shooting took place.
China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims to parts of the strategic and resource-rich maritime region.
“This (exercise) highlights Taiwan’s navigation and fishing rights,” said Vice Admiral Hsu Pei-shan, the Navy Chief of Staff, Central News Agency reported.