Taiwan holds military drills as tensions with Philippines escalate


Taiwan coast guard ships during a demonstration in southern Kaohsiung city on March 30, 2013. Taiwan launched military drills on Thursday in the waters separating it from the Philippines, where a Taiwanese fisherman was shot and killed last week.



Taiwanese military ships are participating in military drills in the waters that separate Taiwan from the Philippines as tensions between the two nations escalate over the death of a Taiwanese fisherman.

Two frigates, one destroyer and other coast guard vessels have taken part in the drill in the Bashi channel near where a 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman was shot and killed by the Philippines Coast Guard last week.

The two-day military drill is a test of Taiwan's ability to protect its fishermen. 

"The move is aimed to highlight our determination to safeguard sovereignty," Rear Admiral Lee Tung-pao said.

"The coast guards have vowed to protect our fishermen wherever they are."

More from GlobalPost: Taiwan, Philippines tensions escalate over slain Taiwanese fisherman

What led to the May 9 shooting of the Taiwanese fisherman remains unclear. A Taiwanese boat came under fire by the Philippine's coast guard but the Philippines said the action was taken in self defense to keep the Taiwanese boat from ramming their patrol boat.

Filipino President Benigno Aquino issued an apology over the death but Taiwan deemed it "unacceptable."

Taiwan's Premier Jiand Yi-huah reportedly said, "Their attitude is too deceitful for our government to accept."

In response, Taiwan has imposed tough sanctions on the Philippines, including freezing applications from Filipino workers and a “red” travel alert urging Taiwanese not to visit.

The US said it is concerned about how deeply the row is affecting relations between the two countries and urged them to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.

"We urged the Philippines and Taiwan to take all appropriate measures to clarify disagreements and prevent recurrence of such tragic events," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said on Wednesday.

"We continue to urge both parties to ensure maritime safety and refrain from actions that could further escalate tensions in the region and undermine prospects for a rapid and effective resolution of differences," he added.

More from GlobalPost: Taiwan, Philippines to jointly probe killing of fisherman in disputed waters