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Military awaiting decision on patrol mission

The military is capable of conducting a patrol mission to protect local fishing boats operating in the Indian Ocean, but the decision on whether to carry out such a mission or when it will be performed will be decided after all related government branches have reached a consensus, the deputy defense minister said yesterday.

“The armed forces have been trained to conduct fishing boat patrol missions for years and we are ready to do so,” said Deputy Defense Minister Chao Shih-chang (趙世璋) yesterday in response to several lawmakers' questions during a legislative session.

However, Chao said the question of when to perform the mission in the disputed seas where Taiwanese vessels are frequently assaulted by Somali pirates was a decision that needs more discussion.

The deputy minister said the gravity of the issue means that it concerns several other government branches, including the National Security Council, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), and the Fisheries Agency under the Council of Agriculture.

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) will follow instructions to carry out its mission in line with government policies after these government units have reached a consensus to launch such patrol mission, he noted.

Chao made the comments following a local newspaper report last week which quoted unidentified government sources as saying that the Navy has organized a fleet that will patrol the Indian Ocean to protect Taiwanese fishing boats operating in the area.

If all had gone well, the fleet could have embarked on the patrol mission as soon as last weekend, the Chinese-language United Evening news paper said.

 It would mark the first time in the country's military history that a naval fleet has embarked on a two-month mission in the Indian Ocean to protect Taiwanese deep-sea fishing vessels and crew members, the newspaper said.

 The report was previously denied by both the MND and the MOFA.

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