By Joseph Yeh
The China Post–The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) yesterday confirmed that Vietnamese patrol vessels twice intruded into Taiwan-controlled waters in the South China Sea last month and were forced to leave the country’s territory by coast guard forces. The Vietnamese vessels were found in restricted waters near Taiping Island, (太平島) the largest island in the Spratlys archipelago, on March 22 and 26, the CGA said. On March 22, two of the Coast Guard’s M8 speedboats were dispatched to intercept two patrol vessels at near Taiping. The Vietnamese vessels left after the CGA speedboats arrived. On the March 26 incident, two Vietnamese ships also entered waters near the island, according to the CGA.
The two ships later left the restricted waters shortly after discovering they were being monitored by the Coast Guard’s radar, the CGA said. No weapons were fired during both incidents, according to the CGA, refuting media speculation that both sides exchanged warning shots during the March 22 confrontation, which has escalated the already heated sovereignty dispute in the region. First Taiwan-Vietnam Military Confrontation: Report
The CGA statements came in response to a Chinese-language China Times Weekly report yesterday which cited unidentified sources as claiming the incident was the first military confrontation between Taiwan and Vietnam. Senior government officials responsible for national defense, security and foreign affairs were immediately summoned by National Security Council Secretary-General Hu Wei-jen (胡為真) for a secret top-level meeting in the Presidential Office following the confrontations in Taiping, the weekly said. The government decided to block the news to avoid escalating the bilateral dispute, the report claimed. The CGA and the Ministry of National Defense (MND) were ordered to closely monitor Vietnamese military vessels’ moves in the disputed seas. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) was also asked to issue a strong protest over the incident to the Vietnamese government, the weekly said. The MOFA yesterday also confirmed that it issued a protest to Vietnam immediately after the March 22 confrontation. James Tien (田中光), director-general of the MOFA’s Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told The China Post during a phone interview yesterday that Taiwan’s representative office in Vietnam had sent an official protest to Vietnamese authorities following the incident to reaffirm Taiwan’s sovereignty over the South China Sea and the island groups. Taiping Island, just 0.49 square kilometers in size, is located 1,384 kilometers southeast of Kaohsiung.
Taiwan’s Coast Guard has had personnel stationed on Taiping since Taiwan Marines pulled out in 1999. Currently around 100 Coast Guard personnel are stationed on the island. Six countries — Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines — claim total or partial sovereignty over the South China Sea