TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — An Indonesian government vessel gave no warning before firing on two Taiwanese fishing boats earlier this month, Taiwan's Fisheries Agency said in a report that also denied claims that the boats were poaching in Indonesian waters.
The agency said in the report, released late Monday, that the fishing boats were hit by 17 bullets, including two that penetrated their cabins, in the early morning incident on March 21.
Agency chief Tsay Tzu-yaw said they were clearly not warning shots and asked Indonesia to provide an explanation.
No one was injured and the boats, which arrived three days later in Singapore, were not badly damaged.
Indonesia says its patrol ship fired at the Sheng Te Tsai and the Lien I Hsing No. 116 only after they ignored repeated warnings to leave Indonesian waters in the Strait of Malacca. It says the vessels were suspected of fishing illegally and were not flying their flags.
The Taiwanese report did not comment directly on the flag claim, but included a recommendation that Taiwanese boats fly the national flag when passing through Indonesian waters "to avoid misunderstandings occurring."
The agency said the Sheng Te Tsai's voyage data recorders showed it had been sailing at 7-8 knots (13-15 kilometers per hour) around the time the incident happened, a speed it said was too fast for it to have been setting nets or hauling in fish.
Diplomatically isolated by China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, the island's government has reacted strongly to such incidents in the past to avoid perceptions it is unable or unwilling to protect its citizens.
The death of a Taiwanese fisherman in 2013 after his boat was fired on by the Philippine coast guard led to a brief diplomatic standoff and economic sanctions.
This story has been corrected to show that the boats arrived in Singapore three days after the incident, not hours later.