Philippine President Benigno Aquino has apologized to Taiwan for the shooting death of a Taiwanese fisherman by the coast guard, after Taipei angrily rejected an earlier statement of regret.
An Aquino spokesman says the president sent a personal representative to Taiwan Wednesday to convey "his and the Filipino people's deep regret and apology" to the family of the fisherman and the people of Taiwan.
Taiwan recalled its envoy to the Philippines to protest what it said was an insincere response by Manila's representative in Taipei. The earlier statement expressed deep regret and promised to investigate the incident, but stopped short of an official apology. Taiwan has not yet reacted to the second expression of regret.
A U.S. State Department spokesman says it is concerned by increased tensions between two neighboring democracies and close U.S. allies. It urges both to clarify disagreements and ensure maritime safety.
Taiwanese Prime Minister Jiang Yi-huah has threatened to hold naval exercises near disputed waters Thursday. He also announced a hiring freeze of Philippine workers.
A Philippines Coast Guard ship opened fire on the fishing boat last Thursday in the South China Sea where both countries' economic interests overlap, killing a 65-year-old fisherman. The Philippines said it was acting in self-defense because the fisherman's boat was about to ram the coast guard vessel.
Taiwan and the Philippines, along with Brunei, China, Malaysia, and Vietnam all have competing claims to parts of the sea, which may be rich in oil and natural gas.