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June 24, 2017

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Taiwan boat returning after Vietnam interception

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Pingtung County-registered Lung Wang Li No. 97 (龍旺利97號) fishing boat was returning to Taiwan last night after being intercepted by Vietnamese vessels in the South China Sea, according to the Coast Guard Administration (CGA).

While making its way to Taiwan from Thailand, the Lung Wang Li No. 97 was intercepted by a Vietnamese vessel around 5:47 a.m. yesterday, in waters around 790 nautical miles southeast of Taiwan's southern tip. Twenty minutes later, more than five similar Vietnamese vessels surrounded the Taiwanese boat, according to an initial CGA report.

The CGA said that the fishing boat was instructed to follow a searchlight and sail toward the Vietnam vessels.

The Taiwan boat's captain, surnamed Tseng, said that crewmen on these Vietnamese ships asked to board his vessel for inspection, according to a CGA statement.

Tseng later reported the case and asked for assistance from the CGA.

Upon receiving the report, the CGA immediately deployed one of its nearby patrol vessels to Tseng's ship.

But Tseng said the Vietnamese ships later left the scene at around 7:45 a.m., before the Taiwanese Coast Guard ship arrived. No Vietnamese crew members boarded the Taiwanese fishing vessel, the CGA said.

According to Tseng, none of the crewmen aboard the Vietnamese ships were in uniform.

The boat's owner, Tsai Tien-yu (蔡天裕), urged the government not only to step up long-term measures to ensure the safety of Taiwanese fishing boats, but also to enter fishery talks with Vietnam to prevent similar incidents from happening again.

Tsai said he has had similar experiences. Two of his boats operating on the open seas were detained by Vietnamese vessels 10 years ago, and he had to pay a US$30,000 "ransom" to the Vietnam government to get the boats back, the captain said.

The CGA responded in a very timely manner to yesterday's incident, Tsai said, adding that he received a call from the Coast Guard 10 minutes after reporting the incident to the Donggang (東港) fishery radio station.

Taiwan's representative to Vietnam, Huang Chih-peng, said he had been informed of the incident and was in close contact with Vietnamese officials regarding it.

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