The Presidential Office yesterday said the government was still considering whether to dispatch naval frigates to Somalia to protect Taiwanese vessels, but said any Taiwanese business or fishing boats facing pirate threats could seek help from nearby naval fleets from other countries.
Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said that more than 40 countries, including China, had naval fleets stationed near the pirate-infested Somalian coast.
Any of them would come to the rescue of a Taiwanese vessel out of moral obligation once it received a distress signal, Wang said.
On Thursday, Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman Chao Chien-min (趙建民) said administrative agencies have been discussing whether and how naval vessels would be dispatched to the region, but he declined to say when such a deployment could be expected.
China has sent naval ships to the Gulf of Aden, with the approval of the UN Security Council and Somalia’s transitional government, in response to a recent surge in pirate attacks on vessels plying the crucial shipping route.
Last year alone more than 100 pirate attacks were reported in the region.
While Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Yang Chiung-ying (楊瓊瓔) yesterday said a deployment of naval frigates would be the right decision, KMT Legislator Shuai Hua-min (帥化民) said it was too early to talk about dispatching naval frigates to the Gulf of Aden to protect Taiwanese ships.
It was not an issue of whether the navy was capable of protecting Taiwanese ships, but one of the international community’s attitude toward Taiwan, he said.
“An invitation for Taiwan to dispatch naval frigates to protect Taiwanese ships from pirates in the waters off Somalia would be welcomed, but it would be a major embarrassment if Taiwan’s offer to do so were rejected,” Shuai said.
“Officials from the Mainland Affairs Council should keep quiet if they are making plans on the matter,” the KMT legislator said.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said he would give President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) the thumbs-up if he “dared” to dispatch frigates.
Hinting that since the probability of such a move was low, Tsai said he hoped the council’s statement was not just a “pseudo-issue” aimed at diverting the public’s focus from the KMT administration’s inability to run the country.
“The greatest obstruction to any Taiwanese plan to send frigates to the Gulf of Aden will be Beijing,” Tsai said.
Tsai added that the matter could well serve to test Chinese President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) sincerity when he made a six-point overture to Taiwan on Dec. 31 on the peaceful development of cross-strait ties.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JENNY W. HSU