The owner of a Taiwanese deep sea fishing vessel hijacked by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean early on Monday wishes to maintain a low profile so that he will be in a better position to negotiate with the hijackers when they make a ransom demand, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday.
“The Foreign Ministry is in close contact with the owner of the hijacked vessel and he has expressed the hope that he can keep a low profile, which will be to his advantage in any negotiations on the matter,” MOFA spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) said at a regular press briefing. “The Foreign Ministry respects the owner’s wishes and is calling on the media to play this down as much as possible.”
At the moment, the pirates have not dictated a ransom. All 30 crew members on the 700-tonne long-line fishing ship Win Far 161, including two Taiwanese nationals, are presumd to be safe, Chen added.
Chen said the ministry had no updated information about the hijacked Taiwanese fishing boat except that it is moving closer to the African coast.
However, based on past experience in the area, the crew should not be in danger if the pirates are only looking to collect a ransom, he said.
On Monday night, MOFA confirmed a wire report that a Kaohsiung-registered fishing boat was suspected to have been hijacked by pirates while traveling in the Indian Ocean near the Seychelles.
At that time, the vessel was reportedly about 1,500km away from the main continent. Chen yesterday said that when MOFA obtains further news on the vessel, the ministry would decide what to do next.
China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu (姜瑜) said yesterday that the related agency in China had established contact with Taiwan and would render assistance if necessary.
When asked for comments, Chen said that MOFA had not received any message from Beijing, but said MOFA appreciated offers to help from around the world.
With attacks by Somali pirates escalating, the American Institute in Taiwan’s Taipei Office expressed concern on Wednesday over the incident, saying that the US Department of Defense was taking a closer look at the matter.
When asked about the US response, Harry Tseng (曾厚仁), director-general of MOFA’s Department of North American Affairs, said yesterday that the US government is aware of Taiwan’s request for assistance to resolve the problem.
“The US government is still looking into the matter to see if it can provide any assistance,” Tseng said.