U.S. in contact with both Taiwan, Philippines on shooting incident

Washington, May 13 (CNA) The United States regrets the tragic death of a Taiwanese fisherman during a confrontation at sea with a Philippine vessel on May 9, and it has been in touch with both sides, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday. "The United States has been in touch with the Philippine government and the Taiwan authorities regarding the incident and we welcome the Philippine government's pledge to conduct a full and transparent investigation into the incident," Psaki said at a daily news briefing in Washington, D.C. on Monday. Pressed repeatedly on the U.S.'s view of the incident, in which a Philippine government vessel opened fire on an unarmed Taiwanese fishing boat, Psaki declined to condemn Manila, saying instead that the case is being investigated. "The Philippine government is looking into this case. I don't want to get ahead of their process of investigating what happened," Psaki said. Asked if the U.S. worried about the escalation of tensions in the region, with Taiwan sending naval ships to patrol waters south of Taiwan, Psaki said "we continue to urge all parties in any scenario to ensure maritime safety and to refrain from provocative actions. "In this case, again, the Philippine government is going to be conducting an investigation and they will be working with the Taiwan authorities to establish what happened in this case," she said. Relations between Taiwan and the Philippines soured after a joint patrol of the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources strafed the Taiwanese fishing boat on May 9, leaving a Taiwanese fisherman dead. Taiwan believes the incident occurred in waters where the two countries' economic zones overlap, while the Philippines has claimed the Taiwanese ship was poaching on its waters. Psaki said the precise location of the incident was not yet clear. "Although it appears that incident took place in or near disputed waters that both claim fishing rights, it's unclear at this stage, in our knowledge, where exactly it took place." Psaki also sidestepped a question on whether the attack on the Taiwanese fishing boat was against a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea, saying only that the U.S. "encourages both sides to refrain from provocative actions." (By Tony Liao and Lilian Wu)