WASHINGTON—The United States on Wednesday urged Taiwan and the Philippines to resolve a dispute after the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman, amid concern over rising tensions between its two allies.
Taiwan has slapped sanctions on the Philippines, including a ban on the hiring of new workers, and rejected an apology by President Benigno Aquino after Philippine coast guards shot dead the 65-year-old fisherman last week.
“We’re concerned by the increase in tensions between two neighboring democracies and close partners of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.
“We urge the Philippines and Taiwan to take all appropriate measures to clarify disagreements and prevent recurrence of such tragic events,” he added.
Washington also urged both sides “to ensure maritime safety and to refrain from actions that could further escalate tensions.”
Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou has insisted on a formal apology from Manila as well as compensation, demanded that the killer to be caught and called for talks on the fishing industry.
Maritime tensions are already high over rival claims in the South China Sea, adjacent to where last Thursday’s shooting took place.
China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims to parts of the strategic and resource-rich maritime region.
Ventrell said “it appears the incident took place in or near disputed waters, where the Philippines and Taiwan both claim fishing rights.”
“The United States does not take a position on the proper location of a maritime boundary in that area,” he stressed.