For the fourth time this week, the US Department of State on Thursday urged Taiwan and the Philippines to work together and settle the growing tensions over the shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by Philippine Coast Guard personnel.
US Department of State spokesperson Jennifer Psaki also promised to take a close look at reports that Manila was not cooperating with Taiwan.
There is concern in Washington that despite the US’ best diplomatic efforts in the background, the situation could still get out of hand.
“We continue to urge both parties to ensure maritime safety and refrain from actions that could further escalate tensions,” Psaki said.
However, she stressed that it was up to the people of the Philippines and Taiwan to “determine” the steps moving forward.
Psaki was asked to comment on reports that when Taiwanese investigators arrived in Manila there were no government officials there to receive them and no meetings were scheduled, while the Philippine Secretary of Justice rejected the idea of a joint investigation.
“We continue to welcome the Philippine government’s pledge to conduct a thorough investigation in this case,” Psaki added. “We are hopeful they will move forward on that and I have not seen those reports you reference. I’ll have to take a closer look at those.”
Asked if the US was informed in advance of the Taiwanese decision to send warships and patrol boats into the area of the incident to protect its fishing boats, Psaki said the US was aware of what was happening.
“We are aware that the Taiwanese navy and Taiwanese coast guard conducted an exercise south of Taiwan today,” she said. “Questions about the conduct of that exercise would, of course, be appropriately directed to Taiwan’s authorities.”
Later, while addressing the US Department of State’s daily press briefing, she repeated the US call for caution.
“We urge both Taiwan and the Philippines to exercise restraint and address the events of last week, and take steps to minimize the likelihood of future confrontations,” Psaki said.
Pressed to comment on the desirability of a joint Taiwan-Philippine investigation into the shooting of the fisherman, she refused.
She repeated that the Philippine government had pledged to conduct a “thorough and expeditious” investigation and the US encouraged them to do so.