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September 21, 2017

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Navy, Coast Guard to hold joint exercise after shooting

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Local armed forces will hold a joint exercise on Thursday as part of efforts to showcase its determination to protect fishermen operating in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

Speaking to local media yesterday before attending a legislative session, Deputy Defense Minister said the military will hold the exercise with the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) in waters off Southern Taiwan.

The Navy will send its Chengkung-class and Kidd-class frigates to the drill, the deputy minister said.

Yang's comments come after a Taiwanese fisherman was killed by gunfire from a Philippine state vessel last Thursday.

Taiwan condemned the shooting and demanded that the Philippines issue a formal apology, apprehend the perpetrators and compensate for the losses.

On Saturday, President Ma Ying-jeou gave the Philippines 72 hours to respond to demands regarding the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman or face the consequences. The deadline falls on midnight Tuesday.

Rules of Engagement

During yesterday's legislative session, lawmakers across party lines jointly called on the government to take a tougher stance against Manila.

Lawmakers proposed that if the Philippines fails to offer a proper response to the demands by midnight Tuesday, Taiwan's military and CGA should take a stronger stance in protecting fishermen operating in disputed waters, including by holding exercises in the South China Sea.

Asked to comment on the rules of engagement when facing a Philippine state vessel, Yang said that the Navy will not open fire, in order to avoid escalating the already-high tensions in the region.

However, the military is ready to take responsive measures "when necessary," he added.

The military will authorize naval vessels to fire if the need arises, Yang added.

CGA Deputy Minister Cheng Chang-Hsiung (鄭樟雄) also said the captains of Coast Guard patrol vessels are authorized to give the order to fire "light weapons" such as machine guns if their boats find themselves in military conflict with Philippine vessels.

But heavy weapons deployed on CGA vessels, including 20 mm and 40 mm cannons, can not be used until a captain has received specific order from the CGA minister, Cheng added.

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