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September 22, 2017

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Taiwan holds joint Navy, Coast Guard drill in overlapping waters with Philippines

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan's military and the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) yesterday held a joint exercise in overlapping waters with the Philippines in the South China Sea amid escalating tensions between the countries after the shooting and killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine coast guard last week.

Taiwan's Navy sent the Kidd-class destroyer Ma Kong (馬公艦) and the Lafayette frigate Chen De (承德艦) to join four CGA patrol vessels for the exercise held yesterday at waters near a Taiwan-Philippine temporary law enforcement line.

The drill was set near the Philippines' Batanes Island.

The law enforcement line serves as an identification line for fishing vessels, guaranteeing the safety of Taiwanese fishermen working in the waters between Taiwan and the Philippines.

The drill began after an S-70C anti-submarine helicopter took off from the Chen De, conducting surveillance together with the Ma Kong and CGA vessels. The exercise was tasked with scanning for possible enemies in the air and the sea.

Another exercise involved a search and rescue operation in the wake of personnel falling overboard.

Two Mirage 2000 fighter jets from the Hsinchu airbase in Northern Taiwan later joined the drills.

A second part to the one-day drill simulated an attack by enemy forces from the sea. Taiwan's Air Force also took part in the exercise, including Indigenous Defense Fighters and an E-2K early warning aircraft.

No F-16s participated in the drill in the wake of an F-16 fighter crash on Wednesday in which a pilot was forced to eject. The Air Force has grounded all F-16s pending an investigation. The pilot suffered only minor injuries.

Taiwan's military stressed that no live ammunition was fired during the drill as part of preventing an escalation in regional tensions.

Crossing the Line

In the lead up to the joint drill, the Kidd-class destroyer, with media personnel on board, passed through the 20-degrees north latitude in the South China Sea around midnight Wednesday.

It was the first time the 10,500-ton warship had entered the area to assist the CGA in its efforts to protect Taiwanese fishermen, the Navy said.

The drill was part of government efforts to showcase its determination to protect fishermen operating in disputed areas in the South China Sea.

Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成) was killed by gunfire from a Philippine state vessel on May 9 when his vessel was operating near the same area where local forces held the drill yesterday.

Taiwan condemned the shooting and demanded that the Philippines issue a formal apology, apprehend the perpetrators, compensate for losses, and commence fishery talks. The Philippines failed to meet Taiwan's demands for a formal apology by the Tuesday midnight deadline.

In response, Taiwan launched a series of retaliatory measures, one of which was to hold the joint Navy and Coast Guard drill.

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