Taiwan sends officials to investigate slaying

Updated: 2013-05-17 03:06

By PU ZHENDONG (China Daily)

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Special envoy rebuffed, returns to Philippines

Taiwan dispatched a large investigative delegation to the Philippines, among other punitive measures, after Manila's fence-mending efforts failed to quell escalating tension over the Philippines' killing of a fisherman from Taiwan.

A delegation of 17 prosecutors and officials from Taipei's various agencies arrived at Manila on Thursday to conduct an investigation into the killing.

Reports said the group was on a mission to clarify facts and push the Philippines on its promise to punish the responsible.

Meanwhile, Taipei launched a military drill on Thursday in waters near the northern Philippines. The exercise involved navy vessels, coast guard patrol boats and two jet fighters.

Dissatisfied with Manila's description of the killing as "unintended" and its failure to address other demands, Jiang Yi-huah, chief of Taiwan's executive body, said on Wednesday night that Taipei is assessing the matter and considering even stronger sanctions.

Observers said that the significance of the military exercise is not only to deter Manila, but also to show the world the disputed status of the waters concerned given that the Philippines, has been trying to unilaterally draw the boundaries.

Manila denied on Thursday that a joint investigation of the incident had been approved, adding that a mutual legal assistance arrangement will be observed.

Philippine Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda also asked Taipei to reconsider the countermeasures, saying the sanctions will harm both sides.

Envoy came in vain

In another development, Amadeo Perez, special envoy of Philippine President Benigno Aquino, and Antonio Basilio, Manila's representative in Taiwan, left Taipei later on Thursday. Perez's requests to visit the victim's family and to meet David Lin, Taipei's chief of foreign affairs, were denied, and the apology letter from Aquino was also rejected, Taiwan media reported.

Moreover, two Taipei hotels also turned down his attempts to book accommodations, citing a lack of vacancies.

Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said Manila's responses still deliberately understate the incident and fall far short of sincerity, which Taipei will not accept.

"The Taipei-Manila rivalry, similar to any crisis, cannot be resolved overnight," Ruan said, adding that other international factors may also influence the outcome.

On Wednesday, Beijing condemned the killing and urged Manila to investigate the incident as soon as possible and to punish those responsible ones.

"It is the responsibility of both sides across the Taiwan Straits to defend the interests of our fishermen," said Yang Yi, spokesman of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, adding that Beijing will pay close attention to the incident as it develops.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei also called on Manila to take effective measures to prevent a recurrence of similar incidents.

Washington also expressed concern on Wednesday over the recent animosity between Taipei and Manila.

Patrick Ventrell, acting deputy spokesman of the US State Department, called on the two sides to "ensure maritime safety and to refrain from actions that could further escalate tensions in the region and undermine the prospect for a rapid and effective resolution of differences".

Analysts also said the situation will head toward reconciliation as Manila's recent low profile, while belated, still signals a transition from its previous arrogance, while Taipei's protests will stop when all its demands are met.

Chen Qi, an international affairs professor at Tsinghua University, said Beijing should take further measures to better protect fishermen on both sides of the Straits.