The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) has rejected a plan by the Ministry of National Defense to deploy military weapons systems on Taiping Island (太平島), reports said yesterday.
The Chinese-language United Daily News reported that following a recent visit to the island by several senior military officials, the ministry had proposed providing the coast guard with some weapons systems free of charge.
Among the military items proposed for deployment were M41A3 Walker Bulldog light tanks, 40mm automatic guns and 120 mortars.
The coast guard has been stationed on Taiping Island since the marines were pulled out in 1999.
The proposed weapons would have replaced outdated guns and mortars left behind by the marines when they left, some of which have become obsolete, the report said.
However, the coast guard turned down the offer, the report said, claiming the weapons to be provided by the military were themselves too old and that it could not afford the maintenance costs of keeping them in service.
Responding to the article, the Coast Guard Administration said it had not rejected the ministry’s offer and that the two agencies were in communication over the matter.
Also yesterday, the ministry said the navy’s friendship fleet, which is on its annual foreign tour, stopped by Taiping Island on Wednesday as it was sailing to the South China Sea.
Several fleet officials disembarked on the island to meet with coast guard officials, it said.
Local media said the move by the navy was meant to highlight Taiwan’s sovereignty over the island, which is also claimed by China, the Philippines and Vietnam.
The friendship fleet returned to Greater Kaohsiung last night.
Meanwhile, a Chinese rescue ship arrived in Taiwan on Saturday, making it the first Chinese government-owned vessel of its kind to visit Taiwan in more than 60 years, an official said yesterday.
The 5,000-tonne Dong Hai Jiu 113 sailed from Fujian to Taichung Harbor on Saturday.
“The port call is expected to further understanding between Taiwan and the mainland [China],” said Ying Liu-sheng, secretary-general to the Chinese Search and Rescue Association, a Taipei-based civil body and the host of the trip.
Closer cooperation is needed as maritime accidents have been on the rise because of increasing traffic across the Taiwan Strait, he said.
The ship — the first Chinese search-and-rescue vessel to come to Taiwan in decades—is also scheduled to visit Greater Kaohsiung, Hualien and Keelung before it leaves on May 10.
The symbolic visit comes after Taiwan and China staged their biggest ever joint maritime search and rescue drill off the outlying island of Kinmen in September last year.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP