Taiwan Recalls Its Representative in Manila Over Fisherman's Killing

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BEIJING -- Taiwan announced Wednesday the withdrawal of its representative in Manila and said it had stopped accepting applications for Filipino workers, a retaliatory step for the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine Coast Guard last week.

The office of President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan said the country regarded an informal apology offered earlier by the Philippines as inadequate.

The diplomatic squabble is the latest sign of high tensions over competing claims in and around the South China Sea among Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan.

The Philippines said the Taiwanese fishing vessel had entered waters in its exclusive economic zone on Thursday and that it had tried to ram a Philippine Coast Guard ship. The Taiwanese fisherman, Hung Shih-cheng, 65, died from a bullet wound in the neck and his boat was hit with dozens of rounds, Taiwanese officials said.

Taiwan has said that the shooting occurred at a location that is within exclusive economic zones claimed by both countries. Many jurisdictions around the world have not negotiated clear boundaries for exclusive economic zones that overlap.

Mr. Ma's office said Wednesday that Taiwan's Navy and Coast Guard would stage an exercise as a show of strength in disputed waters near where the incident occurred. But Taiwanese officials seemed to be resisting some calls for military action.

The Central Daily News in Taiwan urged the government to take tough action against the Philippines, saying that "suffering in silence" for fear of antagonizing the United States, an ally of the Philippines, would only mean further international marginalization of the island.

In an effort to defuse the diplomatic standoff, a spokesman for President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Philippines said later Wednesday that a presidential representative would convey "deep regret and apology" to the family of the dead fisherman and to the people of Taiwan.

The spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, said in a statement that Amadeo R. Perez, chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office, which operates as the Philippines' de facto embassy in Taipei, would personally deliver the message. Taiwan and the Philippines do not maintain official diplomatic relations.

Mr. Lacierda's statement also said that the Philippines' National Bureau of Investigation had begun an inquiry into the shooting, and that it would be "thorough, exhaustive, impartial and expeditious." In a further note of apology, the statement said: "We understand the grief and hurt of the family and of the people of Taiwan over this unfortunate loss and we empathize with them."

Mr. Lacierda also asked that the Taiwan government not ban Filipino workers from Taiwan. "We appeal to Taiwan not to involve our Filipino compatriots there," he said. "They are there working."

In 2011, the latest year for which data is available, 41,896 Filipinos went to Taiwan to work, according to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. Taiwan is the seventh most popular destination for Filipino workers overseas; the Philippines sends more than a million workers each year to countries around the world, and the money they send home is a mainstay of the country's economy.

China, which has frosty relations with the Philippines over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, has come down on the side of Taiwan, which it regards as a breakaway province. At a briefing Wednesday in Beijing, a spokesman for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office repeated China's demand that the Philippines investigate the incident.

"We have already emphasized many times that we request the Philippines investigate thoroughly, punish those responsible and give the fishermen a satisfactory response," said the spokesman, Yang Yi.

The Philippines is challenging China's territorial claims in the South China Sea through an arbitration case filed with the tribunal of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Floyd Whaley contributed reporting from Manila.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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