PLA generals like Luo Yuan see the death of Hung Shih-cheng as a chance for China to press home its objectives regarding Taiwan and the South China Sea at the same time. (Photo/CNS)
General Luo Yuan, known as one of the most outspoken senior officers in China's People's Liberation Army, has said that the killing of Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng by the Philippine coast guard has given China an opportunity to seize the eight islands currently held by Manila in the South China Sea, according to the Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po.
"Opening fire on a Taiwanese fishing boat is not only a provocation to Taiwan, but to the entire Chinese family," said Luo. "I don't know what law the Taiwanese fishing boat violated for fishing in the overlapping exclusive economic zones instead of the Philippines' territorial waters."
Luo also said the use of lethal force against an unarmed fishing boat is a direct violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The general also questioned the account offered by the Philippine side regarding the incident, saying he believes Manila is trying to protect the officer who fired the fatal shot. Beijing will need to come to Taiwan's aid to force the Philippines to apologize, Luo said.
There are four ways China can help Taiwan seek redress, the general said. First, China, as a member of the United Nations, is able to charge the Philippine at the International Court of Justice. Second, a mechanism of cooperation between fishery associations on either side of the Taiwan Strait should be established immediately through consultation. Third, the coast guards on either side should discuss a similar mechanism to patrol disputed waters. Fourth, a mechanism to establish cross-strait military trust should be initiated.
If the Philippines continues to harass Taiwanese fishing vessels, Luo said the PLA will launch an attack to recover an island in the Spratlys held by the Philippines. The general China gained experience in dealing with the Philippines in the standoff over Scarborough Shoal last year.
Luo's suggestion is unlikely to be taken up by Taiwan's government. But President Ma Ying-jeou may find an uncomfortable ring of truth in the words of Hung Feng-lien, the daughter of the 65-year-old fisherman who died when the Philippine coast guard opened fire on Thursday. She said that it is now safer for Taiwanese fishermen to fly the colors of the PRC flag rather than the ROC when operating in or near disputed waters.
Luo Yuan 羅援
Hung Shih-cheng 洪石成
Hung Feng-lien 洪鳳蓮