US voices 'regret' at death of Taiwanese fisherman

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States on Monday voiced regret over the death of a Taiwanese fisherman killed when the Philippine coast guard fired on his vessel, but stopped short of condemning the incident.

"We regret the tragic death of a Taiwan fishing boat master during a May 9 confrontation at sea with a Philippine patrol vessel," State Department spokesman Jen Psaki told reporters.

"The United States has been in touch with both the Philippine government and the Taiwan authorities regarding this incident. And we welcome the Philippine government's pledge to conduct a full and transparent investigation."

Pressed by reporters to take a stronger stand, Ms Psaki said merely that Washington continued to urge all sides "to refrain from provocative actions."

"There will be an investigation into this case, and we'll follow that closely," she added.

Angry Taiwanese fishermen on Monday burned Filipino flags, as Philippine President Benigno Aquino urged calm amid tensions over last week's incident.

The Philippine coast guard admitted on Friday to firing at one of four Taiwanese fishing vessels that it said had strayed into the country's waters.

Taiwanese authorities said more than 50 bullets hit the 15-tonne vessel, and fisherman Hung Shih-cheng, 65, was killed.

The incident comes at a time of heightened tensions around the region over rival claims to the nearby South China Sea.

China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims to parts of the sea.

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