Fri, Feb 11, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan protests Tiaoyutai takeover

DISPUTE The Japanese government has taken over a lighthouse built by ultra-rightists on the islands, to the displeasure of the governments of Taiwan and China

DPA , TAIPEI

Taiwan yesterday protested Japan's taking over a lighthouse on a disputed island claimed by both Taiwan and China, one day after Beijing had made a similar protest.

"The Tiaoyu Islands have belonged to China since ancient times. We have expressed our protest to Japan through our representative office in Tokyo," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) told reporters.

"The Japanese government's taking control of the lighthouse has a good side, that it opens the door to government-level talks since the lighthouse is now controlled by the Japanese government. We hope Japan can solve the dispute with countries concerned through consultation," he said.

Taiwan's protest is softer than that of China because of Taipei's close -- but unofficial -- ties with Tokyo.

On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Kong Quan said Japan's unilateral actions were "illegal and invalid" because the main Tiaoyu island and neighbouring islets had long been Chinese territory.

On Tuesday, Japan announced that the Japan Coast Guard had assumed the maintenance of a lighthouse on one of the Tiaoyu islets, set up by a Japanese right-wing group in 1986 as a symbol of Japan's sovereignty.

Japan said the civil group -- Nihon Seinen Sha (Japan Youth Society) -- had surrendered control of the lighthouse because landing on the islet was difficult, but Taiwan and China see the move as Japan's strengthening its claim to the islands.

Tiaoyu Islands, called Senkaku in Japan, comprise eight islets, and are 167km northeast of Taiwan and 426km southeast of Japan's Okinawa island.

China and Taiwan claim Chinese fishermen discovered and named the island-chain before 1534. Japan says it has owned them since 1879.

The territorial dispute resurfaced in 1986 after Japan declared a 200-nautical-mile economic zone and the Japan Youth Society erected a lighthouse on one of the islets.

Since then, the Global Chinese Alliance for Defending Tiaoyu Islands has launched protests every year, holding seminars and rallies, marching to Japanese embassies and sailing to the Tiaoyu Islands to dismantle the lighthouse and to erect China's national flag.

The protesters have landed on the islands only once, and were barred from sailing near the islands by Japanese naval boats and coastal police vessels.

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