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Coast Guard holds drill near Diaoyutais

Taiwan's Coast Guard yesterday dispatched two vessels to waters near the Diaoyutais as part of a public drill to demonstrate its procedures for escorting Taiwanese fishing boats operating in the disputed area, a rare move to assert the country's sovereignty over the disputed island group amid escalating tensions.

With dozens of reporters and representatives of local fishery associations onboard, the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) has sent the 2,000-ton Ho Hsing vessel (和星艦) to the area to observe a duty changeover between the 500-ton Lienchiang (連江艦) and the 600-ton Hualien (花蓮艦) patrol boats.

Coast Guardsmen on the two patrol vessels also conducted drills with the 20 mm cannons deployed on the ships, which are the main weapons onboard the Taiwanese vessels.

CGA Minister Wang Ginn-wang (王進旺) told media yesterday that his administration will dispatch vessels to patrol the area frequently, and the patrol service will be conducted on a daily basis during the fishing season.

“Our Coast Guard patrol vessels will follow wherever fishing boats go,” he noted.

CGA officials said Taiwan currently conducts patrol operations on Taiwan's side of the temporary law enforcement line with Japan near the Diaoyutais around the clock, and that “onsite changeovers” can help shorten response times in the event that any actions are necessary.

But if Taiwanese fishermen operate outside Taiwan's side of the enforcement line and enter waters claimed by Japan, the CGA will not dispatch vessels to protect them, in order to avoid conflict. Instead they will offer diplomatic assistance to fishermen when needed, the CGA said.

At present, the CGA has 161 ships and is expected to expand its fleet to 173 vessels by 2015.

The CGA's move followed the Japanese government's approval to nationalize three islets of the island group a day earlier. Japan's decision infuriated Taiwan and China, which both claim sovereignty over the archipelago.

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Coast Guardsmen on a patrol vessel conduct drills with 20 mm cannons deployed on the ship in seas near the Diaoyutai Islands as part of an exercise to demonstrate procedures for escorting Taiwanese fishing boats operating in the disputed area. (CNA)



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