Taiwan, Philippines coastguards in brief stand-off despite work on pact

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 02, 2015 6:26 AM

TAIPEI/MANILA (Reuters) - Coastguard ships from Taiwan and the Philippines confronted each other in rich fishing waters south of Taiwan last week, officials from the two sides said, in an incident that comes as they are working on a pact to resolve maritime disputes.

In 2013, Taiwan recalled its envoy to the Philippines, froze work permit applications and ordered military exercises in waters between the two sides to press for an apology for the shooting death of a Taiwan fisherman in waters where their exclusive economic zones overlap.

Last week, a Taiwan coastguard patrol vessel moved in "at full speed" to protect a Taiwan fishing boat and escort it back to safe waters after it had been challenged by a Philippine coastguard vessel, the Taiwan force said in a statement.

A Philippines navy official confirmed the incident and said the Philippine coastguard vessel stopped chasing the Taiwan fishing boat when the large Taiwan vessel appeared.

The neighbors have worked to mend relations strained by the 2013 killing of the Taiwan fisherman by the Philippine coastguard.

They are trying to work out a pact that will formalize how to resolve fishing disputes, including a commitment not to use force, and procedures on the detention and release of any fishing vessels or fishermen.

Taiwan navy officials were not available for comment.

Taiwan tends to use its coastguard to protect its maritime interests, and its navy maintains a low profile, particularly around waters where sovereignty is disputed.

Taiwan does not have diplomatic ties with most countries which instead recognize China.

(Reporting by J.R. Wu in TAIPEI and Manuel Mogato in MANILA; Editing by Robert Birsel)