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Taiwan, China to Practice Maritime Rescues Together


Rescue boats from Taiwan and China take part in a joint rescue drill, at sea halfway between Taiwan's Kinmen and China's Xiamen, 16 Sep 2010

Rescue boats from Taiwan and China take part in a joint rescue drill, at sea halfway between Taiwan's Kinmen and China's Xiamen, 16 Sep 2010

Taiwan and China have forged closer economic ties in the past two years. Now, in a sign of growing trust between the two sides, they will hold their first joint sea rescue drills this week.

Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration are conducting a sea rescue drill with China's Maritime Search and Rescue Center Thursday. This is the first time the two governments' coastal patrol agencies will hold train together.

To avoid the sensitive sovereignty issue, the two sides carry special drill flags, rather than national flags.

China considers Taiwan a part of its territory, and has said it would retake the island by force if Taipei declares formal independence.

Taiwan has governed itself for over 60 years, since Nationalist forces fled China when they lost a civil war. Relations have been on the most part hostile, but have improved under the President Ma Ying-jeou over the past two years.

Legislator Chang Hsien-yao, a member of Mr. Ma's Kuomintang party, says the drills are to prepare both sides for future rescue missions.

Chang says there are no military, political or sovereignty considerations when it comes to rescue missions. He says that as with every country in the world, even if enemies face a sea disaster, humanitarian assistance should be provided - this is what United Nations laws state.

The drill is taking place in the waters near Taiwan's outlying island of Kinmen and China's Xiamen city. Two years ago, Kinmen county authorities held an exercise with China's coastal authority, but Taiwan's official Coast Guard Administration did not participate.

Beijing and Taipei have recently signed an economic cooperation agreement and the two sides are increasing academic and cultural contacts. Cross-strait travel has increased since Taiwan and China began direct transportation links.

Over one million traveled between Kinmen and Xiamen last year.

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