Philippines coast guards patrol the South China Sea during a joint exercise with the US Navy in July 2010.
Tensions have flared in the already-plenty-tense-thank-you-very-much South China Sea after a Philippines coast guard vessel allegedly opened fire on a Taiwanese fishing boat in disputed waters, killing a 65 year old man.
Speaking to reporters in Taipei, Foreign Minister David Lin blamed the Philippine coast guard for opening fire on the fisherman’s boat, the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, on Thursday from a vessel belonging to the fisheries department of the Philippines Department of Agriculture, in disputed waters about midway between southern Taiwan and the northern Philippines.
“We strongly condemn the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine fishery department,” Lin said. “We urge the Philippine government to open a full investigation on this case and send their apology to Taiwan’s government.”
China’s foreign ministry said it deplored the incident, calling it a “brutal act” and echoing Taipei’s calls for an investigation.
“We are expressing our deep grief on the death of the Taiwan compatriot and condolences to the victim’s family,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.
The Philippine coastguard admitted on Friday that its personnel shot at the boat.
“They fired at the machinery to disable it… if somebody died, they deserve our sympathy but not an apology,” Philippine coastguard spokesman Commander Armand Balilo told reporters.
Much of the South China Sea is subject to territorial disputes between the various countries which surround it. In November, new Chinese passports were discovered to include a map that showed several islands claimed by the Philippines as being Chinese territory. Some Chinese commentators have gone even further and tried to lay claim to the Philippines themselves.