Navy can use ports in Malaysia during search: David Lin

Staff writer, with CNA

Thu, Mar 13, 2014 - Page 3

A Taiwanese navy frigate and coast guard vessels that have been dispatched to help search for a missing Malaysia Airlines plane can dock at Malaysian ports to refuel and take on supplies, Foreign Minister David Lin (林永樂) said yesterday.

“We have reached an agreement with the Malaysian government that our frigate and vessels can dock in Malaysia if needed,” Lin told lawmakers at a hearing of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.

Taiwan and Malaysia do not have formal diplomatic relations, which could create diplomatic issues over Taiwanese military vessels docking in Malaysian ports.

Lin was responding to questions from lawmaker Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), who said the frigate and the coast guard vessels have enough supplies on board for 14 days at sea.

The ships will take about four days to reach the search area, which is more than 1,000 nautical miles (1,852km) from Taiwan, and four days to return, leaving only six days for them to search, Lin Yu-fang said.

In response, the foreign minister said Taiwan and Malaysia have reached an agreement to allow Taiwanese ships to dock at harbors in Malaysia.

On Monday, a Chengkung-class navy frigate and two coast guard patrol vessels were dispatched to join international efforts to look for the plane that disappeared in the early hours of Saturday. The ships are expected to reach the search area tomorrow.

Over the past two days, two C-130 transport planes have been dispatched to the South China Sea by the air force to help look for the missing aircraft.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared from radar screens in the early hours of March 8 as it was flying over the sea between Malaysia and Vietnam about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on a flight to Beijing.

It was carrying 227 passengers — including Taiwanese national Chuang Hsiu-ling (莊秀玲) — and 12 flight crew members.

As of yesterday at press time, no debris from the plane had been discovered, leaving investigators perplexed and without any clues to determine what might have happened to the plane.

A total of 12 countries, including Taiwan, have joined the mission to search for the missing airliner.