Sun, Sep 12, 2010 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan, China launch joint drill

ANCHORS AWEIGHBoats and aircraft from the two sides’ coast guard and sea rescue center will simulate the collision of two ships between Kinmen and Xiamen

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration (CGA) will conduct a joint ­maritime rescue drill this week with its Chinese counterpart, the first time the coastal patrol agencies on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are to hold joint marine exercises.

According to the CGA, it will hold the drill with China’s Maritime Search and Rescue Center in waters off southeastern China, between Taiwan’s Kinmen and the Chinese city of Xiamen.

Boats and aircraft from Taiwan and China will simulate the collision of two ships on the Kinmen-Xiamen route — one of the busiest areas in the Taiwan Strait — and try to save “passengers” that fall into the sea, the CGA said.

The CGA will send nine patrol boats, including a 500-tonne patrol vessel, and helicopters to Kinmen for the joint drill.

To avoid unnecessary political disputes, the two sides have decided that all participating vessels and rescue teams will only carry flags that symbolize the joint drill, CGA officials said.

They underlined that the drill was being held for the sole ­purpose of preparing for possible accidents in the Taiwan Strait.

Commenting on the landmark cross-strait marine drill, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) said he supports the way Taiwan and China have defined marine rescue as “a humanitarian practice.”

“We must recognize China’s conduct” to help save Taiwanese fishing boats from difficulties while operating in waters in the Taiwan Strait, he said.

However, Huang also questioned whether Chinese ships should be permitted to sail across the median line of the strait into Taiwan’s waters in the future if a marine accident happens on Taiwan’s side of the strait.

“It needs to be discussed,” he said.

On Thursday, former deputy defense minister Lin Chong-pin (林中斌) said that although the participants in the rescue drill are not from the military, he sees the event as a “positive signal” in the two sides’ pursuit of mutual military trust.

Lin, now a professor at Tamkang University’s Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies, saw the upcoming marine drill as a sign that Taiwan and China have finally begun to pay attention to the long-term need for a joint capability in handling marine accidents in the Taiwan Strait.

The drill may be the first between the two central government’s coast guards, but joint exercises have taken place at the local level.

In October 2008, the Kinmen County Government dispatched ships and rescue personnel to conduct a joint marine rescue drill with a similar patrol squad from Xiamen.

Kinmen County Commissioner Li Wo-shi (李沃士) in June urged the two sides to establish a cross-strait marine accident rescue mechanism as soon as possible because of the fast pace at which transport services between Kinmen and Xiamen are growing.

Lee said 1.28 million traveled between the two destinations by boat last year, adding the volume is expected to rise this year.

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