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Taiwan steps up sea patrol in disputed waters

Taiwan steps up sea patrol in disputed waters

Taiwanese coastguards have stepped up patrol in the disputed South China Sea after local fishermen complained that they were harassed and robbed by Vietnamese pirates, it was reported yesterday.
The move came as Taiwan is building a runway on one of the islands in the disputed Spratlys, sparking protest from Vietnam.
The coastguards, whose frigates previously sailed to Tongsha (Pratas) once every month, have extend patrols to the disputed Sisha (Paracel) islets, which are about 1,100 kilometers from Taiwan, the Liberty Times said.
Tongsha is some 455 kilometers from Taiwan.
The new patrol area also covers waters off the disputed Jhongsha (Macclesfileld Bank) islands, it said.
"There were frequent reports of pirates ransacking fishing and cargo vessels sailing through that area," Cheng Chang-hsiung, head of the Maritime Patrol Directorate General, told the daily.
"Local fishermen also complained that their fishing nets and catches were stolen by Vietnamese fishermen," Cheng said.
However, Taiwanese fishermen were unenthusiastic about the expanded coastguard patrol saying it did little to protect local fishing boats operating off the disputed Spratlys, a major fishing ground for 200 fishing vessels from southern Taiwan.
Taiwan in January 2006 rejected Vietnam's demand that it stop building a runway in the Spratly Islands (南沙島).
Vietnam's foreign ministry had described the building of the runway as a "severe violation of Vietnam's sovereignty" and said it would have a negative impact on peace, stability and regional cooperation.
Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, China, Malaysia, and the Philippines claim all or part of the potentially oil-rich Spratlys.
All claimants except Brunei have troops based on the archipelago of more than 100 islets, reefs and atolls, which have a total land mass of less than 5 square kilometers.