TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration (CGA) chief boarded a new CGA 3,000-ton patrol vessel to inspect a Taiwan-controlled island in the disputed South China Sea last week amid rising tensions with the Philippines in overlapping waters, the CGA said.
CGA Minister Wang Chung-yi, together with several senior officials of the CGA, arrived on Taiping Island on the newly commissioned CGA vessel, the "Kaohsiung," hull number CG-129, around 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 13, the CGA said in a statement yesterday.
The group departed from a Kaohsiung harbour on 9 a.m. June 11, it noted.
Upon arrival, Wang and the Taiwanese officials met with coastguardmen stationed on the island. The officials also inspected a wharf upgrade project currently taking place on the small island, it said.
Wang also inspected the Zhongzhou Reef, a small coral reef lying 5 kilometers east of R.O.C.-occupied Taiping Island during his stay and took a group photo on the reef, according to the CGA. The reef is currently controlled by the R.O.C, but it is also claimed by the PRC, Vietnam and the Philippines.
During his address at the inspection tour, Wang called on coastguardsmen and women to continue their patrols surrounding Taiping Island to safeguard the R.O.C.'s sovereignty claims in the region and Taiwanese fishermen's rights to operate, the statement said.
The Kaohsiung vessel and Taiwanese officials returned to Taiwan proper by 10 a.m. yesterday, the CGA added.
The 3,000-ton Kaohsiung vessel, with a length of 119 meters, a width of 15.2 meters and carrying a maximum crew of 50, was recently commissioned by the CGA in mid-May.
The inspection tour was undertaken amid recent rising tensions with the Philippines in overlapping Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), according to the CGA.
Three Taiwanese fishing boats have been accused of poaching in the South China Sea by the Philippines since May.
Two of the three, the Pingtung-registered Sheng Feng No. 12 and Der Man Fu No. 3, had been detained by the Philippine authorities after being boarded by Philippine coastguards. The former was released after paying a fine while the latter is still being held.
Taiwanese coastguardsmen and their Philippines counterparts also had a three-hour-standoff in overlapping EEZs in mid-May over the Pingtung-registered Ming Chin Tsai No. 6.