The shadowing of a Taiwanese research vessel carrying Philippine researchers by Chinese coast guard vessels earlier this year contravened a UN convention, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.
At the time, the R/V Legend was in the South China Sea carrying out a research project sponsored by Taiwan and the Philippines under the terms of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said.
The “harassment” by Chinese coast guard vessels not only jeopardized regional security and stability, but also contravened the UN convention, which sets out the rights and obligations of countries to conduct scientific research in the world’s oceans, Ou said.
Photo: Yang Mien-chieh, Taipei Times
The ministry condemns the Chinese coast guard’s shadowing of the Legend in March, she said, without giving details of the coast guard’s actions.
Disputes in the region should be settled peacefully by all parties concerned in accordance with international law and the law of the sea, Ou said.
The ministry issued the statement a day after the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said that on April 13, it had summoned a senior official from China’s embassy in Manila to protest the alleged “harassment” of the Legend, which was conducting research in the “West Philippine Sea.”
Manila uses the “West Philippine Sea” to designate the parts of the South China Sea included in its exclusive economic zone.
On Thursday last week, US-based research organization Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative said in a report that separate incidents had been recorded of Chinese law enforcement vessels challenging “marine research and hydrocarbon exploration activities within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.”
In the report, titled Three Rounds of Coercion, the organization said that on March 23, Chinese Coast Guard vessel 5203 departed from Mischief Reef (Meiji Reef, 美濟礁) in the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) and “began shadowing” the Legend at a distance of 2 to 3 nautical miles (3.7km to 5.6km) while the Legend was conducting research in Philippine territory.
On April 6, the same Chinese coast guard boat again tailed the Legend, which was accompanied by a Philippine coast guard patrol vessel, the BRP Capones, the report said.
The Chinese vessel stopped shadowing the other two vessels only after the Capones returned to port in San Fernando and the Legend sailed back to Taiwan three days later, it said.
An article by The Associated Press (AP) in April said the Legend was carrying five Philippine scientists and an unspecific number of Taiwanese researchers on a month-long voyage to map faults and other geological features to help assess earthquake, tsunami and other potential risks in the region.
The mapping project, which concluded on April 13, was partly funded by the Philippine Department of Science and Technology, and was conducted by Taoyuan-based National Central University and the University of the Philippines’ National Institute of Geological Sciences, the AP report said.
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