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Navy 'keen to protect Taiwan ships from piracy'
By Cui Xiaohuo (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-04-08 09:10

Mainland warships will rescue a Taiwan fishing vessel hijacked by Somali pirates if conditions allow, a military source said Tuesday.

No political issues will hinder the decision if the People's Liberation Army (PLA) navy can save the ship, a naval officer said on condition of anonymity.

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The 700-ton long-line fishing vessel Win Far 161 was seized early Monday near an island in the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean and has been driven some 1,500 km from land. It is the first vessel from Taiwan hijacked by pirates since 2005.

The pirates have not yet demanded ransom for the 30 crew members, including the ship's skipper and first engineer from Taiwan, five crew members from the mainland, as well as 17 Filipino and six Indonesian sailors.

"If the vessel had contacted mainland authorities before reaching the waters and received the PLA navy's guidance, it would not have been seized by the pirates," said Peng Guangqian, a Beijing-based military expert on cross-Straits relations.

The PLA navy could have rescued the vessel if it reached the hijacked vessel's area, said Senior Colonel Li Jie, a researcher at the Chinese Navy's Military Academy.

The government is trying to verify the situation and would take measures to rescue the hijacked crew and vessel, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said yesterday.

Mainland warships escorted the Taiwan merchant vessel Yushan through Somali waters in mid-January.