Taiwan demanded a joint investigation into the death of a Taiwanese fisherman whose ship came under fire from a Philippines Coast Guard vessel in waters claimed by both sides.
The fisherman’s ship was riddled with 32 bullet holes in the shooting yesterday, Taiwan Coast Guard Deputy Minister Cheng Chang-hsiung said at a briefing today. The Philippines Coast Guard acknowledged one of its ships opened fire on a Taiwanese vessel and received reports that a fisherman died, spokesman Armand Balilo said in a text message.
“It’s not acceptable, under any circumstances, for the Philippines to shoot our unarmed fishermen,” Taiwan Foreign Minister David Lin said at the briefing with Cheng. He also said the two sides should start talks on settling the dispute over the waters.
The shooting off the coast of the Philippines province of Batanes in the South China Sea may fan tensions in an area beset by territory disputes among countries including the Philippines, China, Vietnam and Malaysia. The Philippine Coast Guard will investigate, its commander, Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena, said at a briefing. He called the incident unfortunate.
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou called on his island’s Coast Guard to defend the safety of fishermen, his spokeswoman Li Jia-fei said in a statement. Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanded the Philippines arrest the person responsible and compensate the dead fisherman’s family.
“China is deeply concerned about the Philippines’ repeated shooting at unarmed fishermen,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a briefing in Beijing today. “We would like to urge the Philippines to quickly investigate and properly handle this case.”
China, which claims Taiwan as a province, has been more assertive in pressing sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. In April last year, Chinese ships blocked the Philippines from inspecting Chinese fishing boats in an area of the sea claimed by both sides.