The US is likely to offer an ex gratia payment to the family of a Taiwanese fishing boat captain who was accidentally killed by US forces in an anti-piracy operation two months ago, Taiwan’s representative office in Washington said yesterday.
“We have been helping the family negotiate with US authorities, and our efforts are expected to yield results soon,” Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office deputy head Leo Lee (李澄然) said at a routine news conference.
The incident occurred on the Taiwan-flagged fishing vessel Jih Chun Tsai No. 68, which was hijacked by Somali pirates in March last year. Although some progress was made early this year in negotiations for the boat’s release, the pirates had continued to use it as a mother ship to attack other vessels navigating in the Indian Ocean, which prompted the NATO operation.
On May 10, the Jih Chun Tsai’s captain, Wu Lai-yu (吳來于), was killed as a result of “friendly fire” from the US warship USS Stephen W. Groves during an exchange of fire as part of the NATO anti--piracy mission. The US authorities released a report on the incident last -Saturday, but Wu’s family said the report was “unacceptable” and left many questions unanswered.
The family also demanded US$3 million in damages and Lee said the representative office was duty-bound to help Wu’s family seek compensation from the US.
“We have been in contact with the US side almost every day in the hope of helping the captain’s family in their campaign for compensation,” Lee said.
He added that the US authorities are processing paperwork to -provide an ex gratia payment to Wu’s family on humanitarian grounds.
Unlike the payment of damages, an ex gratia payment is a payment made without the giver recognizing any legal obligation.
Regarding the Wu family’s demand for compensation, Lee said such a payment involved legal liabilities and required the assistance of legal experts to clarify whether the family should seek damages from NATO, under whose auspices the operation was conducted, or the US Navy.
He added that the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), a quasi--official US body authorized to handle relations with Taiwan in the absence of official ties, had directed its Taipei office to deal with the Wu family’s request for compensation.
“Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs is assisting the Wu family in filling out application forms for damages,” Lee said.
At the Wu family’s request, the office has also asked the US to clarify certain points and provide video footage or photographs to help answer their remaining questions, Lee said, adding the US side had yet to reply.
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