Taiwan commissions two new CGA ships to safeguard territorial claims
ROC Central News Agency
Taipei, March 30 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou on Saturday vowed to safeguard the nation's sovereignty and fishing rights as he presided over the commissioning of two new ships of the Coast Guard Administration in southern Taiwan Saturday.
The commissioning ceremony of the two ships, a 2,000-ton frigate and a 1,000-ton patrol boat, was held in southern Taiwan's Kaohsiung city.
After the ceremony, the president boarded one of the ships to witness a drill featuring a sea rescue and water spraying exercise. It was the first time Ma boarded a ship to take part in sea drills.
President Ma said the two ships were the first batch of a total of 37 ships being commissioned under a 10-year plan to beef up the capacity of the CGA to enforce the law, carry out rescue operations and safeguard Taiwan's fishing rights -- three major missions of the administration.
He said the patrol boat has a cruising endurance reaching 15,000 nautical miles and the frigate has been equipped with 40mm gun fire control system.
He noted that since the inauguration of the CGA 13 years ago, its fleet has consisted of mostly small- or medium-sized ships and as a result, its capacity to execute the law at sea has been limited.
Although two ships with more than 1,000 tons were built in recent years, he noted 'the CGA needs to beef up its equipment.'
This is because changes in the peripheral seas have taken place, and the frequency and intensity of the missions the ships will go on have increased significantly, the president said.
He asked the administration to continue to act based on the principles of 'no circumvention, no concession and no provocation' in safeguarding the nation's sovereignty and fishing rights of Taiwanese fishermen.
He noted the CGA's performance last September when it sent ships to escort Taiwanese fishermen to waters near the disputed Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea to stage a protest against Japanese harassment of Taiwanese fishermen.
The island chain, which lies about 100 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan, is administratively controlled by Japan but also claimed by Taiwan and China, and the fishermen wanted to assert Taiwan's sovereignty over the islands and their rights to operate in their traditional fishing ground.
After the president assumed the presidency in his first term in 2008, he has asked the Executive Yuan to allocate NT$24.07 billion for domestic shipbuilders to build 37 ships with a total of 17,000 tons for the CGA over a period of 10 years.
After the beef-up, the number of ships in the CGA's fleet will increase to 173 with a total of 36,000 tons, which Ma said will effectively safeguard the ROC's interest at sea.
But he also said that the country needs to move toward ships that are capable of carrying helicopters.
He noted that compared with neighboring countries, those bordering the sea usually have ships equipped with helicopters, but that was not the case for the Republic of China.
Ma noted that U.S. Coast Guard has 210 planes, Japan Coast Guard has 73, and the Philippines has 10 planes, and Taiwan needs to work toward that goal, according to Ma.
The CGA said that one of the new ships, the frigate Hsinbei, will be stationed in Keelung Harbor and mainly to safeguard fishing rights in the northern sea, including the waters near the disputed Diaoyutai Islands, while the patrol boat, Hsunhu No. 8, will be stationed in Kaohsiung's Hsinta Harbor.
A CGA official said that the CGA did not choose the Keelung Harbor for the drill because the harbor is a commercial port and its hinterland is not as big. Moreover, since Saturday's drill brought together 12 ships, it might affect the commercial activities there.
(By Kelven Huang, Lilian Wu and Nell Shen)
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