T The death of a Taiwan fisherman in a clash
with the Philippine coast guard near disputed waters sparked a war of
words Friday in the latest tensions over the South China Sea.
The Taiwanese fishing boat Kuang Ta Tsing No 28 was looking for blue-fin tuna in a region where the two countries' claimed exclusive economic zones overlap, when the Philippine coast guard opened fire Thursday around 10:00 am (0200 GMT), both sides said.
The gunfire allegedly killed the Taiwan boat's 65 year-old captain, Hung Shih-cheng, according to a statement released late Thursday by Taiwan's Foreign Ministry.
Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou demanded that Philippine authorities "fully investigate the incident, apologize for it, punish the culprits involved, provide compensation, and guarantee that this will not happen again."
Taiwan said it found evidence of 32 shots fired at the boat, which was being towed back to Taiwan under escort by a Taiwan Coast Guard warship.
The Philippine coast guard admitted firing at the boat, leading to the fisherman's death, but stressed it was in self-defence.
"The fishing vessel attempted to ram them," coast guard commandant Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena said, adding that the shots were aimed at the "machinery portion of the vessel."
All personnel involved in the altercation have been relieved to ensure an impartial investigation, he said.
"This incident is very unfortunate and efforts will be executed to prevent similar occurrences."
Philippine coast guard boats have clashed with Taiwan fishermen several times in the past decade, but this was the first time they had opened fire or killed anyone, Cheng Yu-chung, the coordinator for the Liuqiu Fishing Association, of which Hung was a member, told dpa.
"We've been very disappointed with the level of protection from the (Taiwan) government thus far," Cheng said. "We need them to step up coast guard patrols and protect our fishermen."
Taiwanese lawmakers have also called on Ma to send in more navy and coast guard ships.
This incident is the latest in a series of confrontations in the South China Sea, where six nations, including Taiwan, the Philippines and China, have partly competing claims to several islands and reefs.
In April 2012, a standoff erupted at the Scarborough Shoal after Chinese ships blocked the Philippine navy from arresting Chinese fishermen for alleged poaching.
China, which also claims Taiwan, called the shooting "barbaric" and pressed Manila to investigate the incident, according to Beijing's official news agency Xinhua.
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