Tue, Jun 21, 2005 - Page 1 News List

MND ready for show of force today

WARSHIP A navy frigate will travel to waters 110km off the northeast coast of Taiwan, but will avoid getting too close to the disputed Diaoyutais

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) will join Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and 13 legislators on a warship headed to disputed waters northeast of Taiwan today, to demonstrate the government's determination to protect Taiwanese fishermen.

"Because Legislative Speaker Wang decided to board the warship, minister Lee will accompany him and the other lawmakers," Ministry of National Defense (MND) spokesman Rear Admiral Liou Chih-chien (劉志堅) said yesterday.

Liu said Lee and the others will board a 3,500-tonne Knox-class frigate equipped with advanced Standard-I missiles.

According to Chinese-language newspapers, to avoid disputes with Japan, the warship will not sail to waters close to the Diaoyutais, which are claimed by both Taiwan and Japan. The newspapers said the navy's mission is to protect Taiwan's fishermen, and would not involve any move to stake a claim to sovereignty over the islands.

According to a schedule released by the MND, the warship will depart from Suao naval base at 9am, travel 110km off the coast of Taiwan by 12:45pm, and return to Suao at 5pm. Other warships and boats will be monitoring the situation.

The ministry will allow some reporters to board the warship, along with the legislators.

Newspapers said that to prepare for any possible incident, F-16 fighters equipped with AIM-120 and Harpoon missiles will be on alert today.

The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) yesterday said it would send the 1,800-tonne Mou Hsing and two 1,000-tonne boats to support the warship. The CGA also ordered all boats scheduled to patrol waters northwest of Taiwan today to move to positions 45km or more off the coast.

"If any incidents occur, the boats will be able to reach the spot within an hour," the CGA said in a press statement.

The ministry initially said that it had no intention of getting involved in recent fishing disputes with Japan, after People First Party Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) demanded that the government send warships to protect its fishing boats in the disputed waters near the Diaoyutais.

However, after Wang talked to the Lee last week, Lee agreed that the ministry would allow lawmakers onboard navy vessels sailing to disputed waters with Japan.

Meanwhile, the captain of a Taiwanese fishing boat that was detained by the Japanese coast guard early on Saturday was released on bail Sunday night.

Chen The-liang (陳得良) and his vessel, the Chinmingtsai No. 11, were detained for illegally fishing off Miyako Island, which is within Japan's exclusive economic zone.

Chen and his four fishermen are be expected to return to Pingtung tomorrow.

According to Japanese news-papers, Chen admitted that he had been fishing in waters beyond Taiwan's exclusive economic zone.

also see stories:

DPP faults Wang for frigate trip

Premier won't join legislators on warship voyage

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