Any maritime aid asked or given between China and Taiwan are matters solely between the two sides and the US will help any vessel in distress regardless of nationality, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said yesterday, but refused to comment on the possibility of the US providing escort for Taiwanese vessels in the Gulf of Aden.
In a telephone interview with Taipei Times, AIT Press Officer Lawrence Walker said that available US naval ships would assist any troubled vessel that requests assistance, in accordance with international customary practices and sea laws.
On Tuesday, AIT released a statement to the Central News Agency (CNA) saying: “AIT has discussed with Taiwan the problem of piracy in the Gulf of Aden. We refer you to the Taiwan authorities for information about their plans to protect their shipping. Piracy is a global crime. If any vessel is in distress anywhere in the world and requests assistance, the US Navy has a responsibility to render assistance, if feasible.”
Walker said the statement was consistent with the US commitment to Taiwan’s security as outlined in the Taiwan Relations Act, the three US-China communiques and Washington’s long-standing “one China” policy.
‘NOTHING TO ADD’
When asked about the US government stance on providing escort assistance to Taiwanese vessels to preempt possible attacks, Walker said: “AIT has nothing more to add to the statement.”
AIT also declined to comment on why the US contacted the news agency on its own initiative to release the statement.
The US statement came after Beijing announced on Tuesday last week that it was willing to provide escort assistance to Taiwanese vessels.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) said the government was still mulling whether to dispatch naval frigates to the troubled waters off Somalia, but acknowledged “technical difficulties” such as finding places to fuel during the long journey.
Until the technicalities are smoothed out, Taiwan might be better off seeking international assistance rather than tackling the problem on its own, he said.
Taiwan is in talks with the US and EU on the issue, he said, but no details had been discussed.
On Tuesday, the Democratic Progressive Party accused the ministry of failing to protect Taiwan’s sovereignty when a Formosa Plastics-owned ship reportedly came under the protection of the Chinese navy to prevent pirate attacks. The incident was an example of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) submission to Beijing, the party said.
Ou said the ministry would safeguard the nation’s sovereignty, but that it was not the decision-maker on sending military backup to the region.