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Taiwan, China hold first formal sea rescue exercise.

TAIPEI, Sept. 16 Kyodo

Taiwan and China wrapped up Thursday their first formal joint sea rescue exercise, the latest example of cross-strait integration that has flourished since Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou came to office.

The exercise lasted more than an hour and was held in about 6 square kilometers of waters near the narrow passage between Taiwan-held Kinmen island and the Chinese city of Xiamen, Fujian Province, Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration said in a statement.

Coast Guard Administration Deputy Minister Cheng Chang-hsiung and the vice minister of China's Transport Ministry, Xu Zuyuan, were joint commanders of the operation.

It featured a passenger boat and a freighter in a simulated collision and a combined 14 rescue vessels, 10 guard boats, seven support vessels, three helicopters and 400 personnel, the statement and local media said.

''Coordination and communication between cross-strait search and rescue units have taken another big stride forward'' with Thursday's exercise, the statement said.

The exercise comes as China places pressure on Taiwan to work toward agreements in more politically sensitive areas such as defense and culture after a cross-strait trade deal was signed in China in June.

Cooperation in rescue work is mandated by a maritime agreement signed at the end of 2008, the year Ma was elected president, which facilitated direct sea transport between Taiwan and China.

The resulting rise in cross-strait traffic has increased the number of incidents threatening life and property, Taiwan's coast guard said.

A sea rescue exercise utilizing local resources was held in the same area in late 2008, before the agreement was signed, but Thursday's exercise is the first with ministry-level officials in charge and under the imprimatur of the agreement.

Even so, the two sides agreed to hoist flags pertaining to the exercise and without sovereign meaning to avoid political complications, Taiwan's semiofficial Central News Agency reported Thursday.

Yu Ming-shi, another deputy minister of Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration, arrived in China today with a delegation of government officials and business leaders.

They will meet Chen Yunlin, head of China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, on Saturday.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Sep 20, 2010
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