Sat, Jun 14, 2008 - Page 1 News List

War remark by Liu sparks controversy

SOVEREIGNTY CLAIM After being pressed by a KMT legislator about going to war with Japan over the Diaoyutai islands, the premier said war was a last option

By Flora Wang and Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) said yesterday he would not rule out going to war with Japan if Taipei and Tokyo fail to resolve the dispute over the Diaoyutai (釣魚台) islands triggered by Tuesday’s collision between a Taiwanese fishing boat and a Japanese patrol vessel.

“I believe declaration of war is the last option to resolve controversies between two nations,” Liu said when fielding repeated questions from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chen Ken-te (陳根德) on the floor of the legislature about whether the Cabinet was ready for a war with Japan.

Liu made the comment after being repeatedly asked if he had not ruled out war as an option in the dispute.

Later in an interpellation session with Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Chun-yee (李俊毅), the premier elaborated on his remark, saying that war would be the last choice if all peaceful means were in vain.

But “we are always ready in terms of any action to defend the nation’s sovereignty,” he said.

Under the Constitution, only the president can declare war.

The Taiwanese fishing boat and Japanese patrol boat collided at 3:38am on Tuesday, resulting in the sinking of the Taipei County-registered vessel.

The three crewmembers and 13 fishermen aboard the boat were rescued by the Japanese and taken to Ishigaki in the Ryukyu island chain for medical treatment and questioning. One of the crewmen said the Japanese patrol vessel had deliberately rammed into the Taiwanese boat. The Japanese coast guard said the Taiwanese boat had made an abrupt turn and hit its vessel.

The 13 fishermen returned home on Wednesday morning and two crewmembers were released on Thursday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced yesterday afternoon that Ho Hung-yi (何鴻義), the boat’s captain, had been released by Japan and was expected to return to Taipei at 7:55pm.

News of Ho’s release came after Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) threatened yesterday morning to recall Taiwan’s representative to Japan if Tokyo did not demonstrate goodwill by 5pm yesterday.

Ou had made the threat during an interpellation session at the Legislative Yuan.

What had been a minor diplomatic incident escalated after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his administration were criticized across party lines as being too weak after a report on Thursday in the Chinese-language United Daily News that said the foreign ministry had instructed a Taiwanese coast guard vessel to “back off” as it approached the scene of the collision.

While the Presidential Office issued a statement on Thursday afternoon reaffirming Taiwan’s sovereignty over the Diaoyutais, Ma has remained tight-lipped amid calls for him to clarify his position on the issue.

KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方), a member of the Diplomacy and National Defense Committee, told reporters that the committee has demanded the Ministry of National Defense (MND) provide a Kidd-class destroyer to take committee members on an inspection tour of the incident area.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) said Vice Speaker Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) would lead the inspection trip.

Peter Tsai (蔡明耀), the head of the ministry’s Committee of Japanese Affairs, said on Thursday that he was the one who placed the call to the Coast Guard Administration (CGA), asking that its ship stay away from the 12 nautical mile (22km) exclusion zone surrounding the Diaoyutais after he got a request from Japan.

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