Taiwan has recalled its representative to Japan immediately to consult with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after Japan released a report recommending charges against a Taiwanese fishing boat captain that the ministry called "absolutely unacceptable."
Japanese authorities have charged the captain, Ho Hung-yi (何鴻義), with “incurring danger” in an incident on Tuesday, when his boat collided with a Japanese patrol boat at 3:38am near the Diaoyutai (釣魚台) islands.
The Taipei County-registered vessel sank soon after.
“We demand that the Japanese apologize immediately for their inhumane behavior and compensate the captain for damages,” Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) told a press conference yesterday afternoon after Japanese authorities released the results of an investigation into the collision.
The investigation said the Japan Coast Guard had recommended that authorities charge both Ho and the captain of the Japanese patrol boat with “incurring danger due to negligence of official duties” and additionally charge the Japanese captain with “incurring harm due to negligence of official duties.”
Ou said the ministry would immediately “recall” Representative to Japan Koh Se-kai (許世楷) to report on his office’s contact with Japanese authorities over the matter.
Koh will also be instructed on how to proceed with the negotiations on the issue, Ou said.
When contacted by the Taipei Times, MOFA Spokeswoman Phoebe Yeh (葉非比) dismissed concerns that the recall was meant as a diplomatic protest.
Ou also announced that the ministry will dissolve its Committee of Japanese Affairs.
Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) requested that the Taiwan Coast Guard Administration and other agencies provide reports on the incident from their perspectives expeditiously, Ou said.
The Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs will contact Ho about the results of the Japanese investigation and discuss his options for seeking compensation from the Japanese government, he said.
Taiwan, China and Japan all claim sovereignty over the Diaoyutai islands, although Tokyo exerts control over the chain and claims sovereignty over the surrounding waters.
Ou said a special cross-agency committee that was tasked in 1999 to examine the Diaoyutai dispute must resume its work.
Earlier yesterday, Ho, who was released on Friday, said the Japanese government had treated him unfairly and prolonged his detention without reason. Ho said he had been interrogated without the company of a lawyer or translator.
Ho accused the crew of the Japanese vessel of deliberately ramming his boat.
“It’s impossible that the vessel collided with our boat because we were zigzagging across the water,” Ho told a press conference in the Legislative Yuan yesterday.
He said satellite pictures and his boats’ instruments could prove that his boat was on a steady course and disprove the explanation of the Japanese crew.
The three crewmembers and 13 fishermen aboard the Taiwanese boat were all rescued. The fishermen were taken to Ishigaki in the Ryukyu islands for medical treatment and questioning before being sent home on Wednesday.
Crew member Yang Kun-feng (楊坤風) accused Japanese officials of partiality in their report.
“We were the victims, but the Japanese officials kept saying that we were lying at the interrogation,” Yang said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lee Ching-hua (李慶華), who accompanied Ho and the other crew members yesterday, called on the government to demand an apology from Tokyo and provide legal assistance for the fishermen to seek damages.
“Don’t the Diaoyutai islands belong to Ilan County? How dare the Japanese detain and question this captain and his crew? Is it because the Japanese government assumed that the Taiwanese government would not confront it on this issue?” Lee asked.
Taipei County Commissioner Chou Hsi-wei (周錫瑋), who accompanied family members of the boat’s crew in protest against Japan’s actions last week, vowed to provide legal help for Ho and his crew and to seek compensation from Tokyo.
“We local governments will be tough and continue to press Japan to protect the rights of our fishermen,” Chou said yesterday.
Chou said the local government would help the fishermen file a lawsuit against Japan.
The Ministry of Justice last night issued a statement saying that because the Diaoyutai are Taiwan’s territory, Taiwan enjoys jurisdiction over the islands.
If the fisherman files a suit against officers on the Japanese patrol boat, prosecutors would launch an investigation into whether the Japanese violated any criminal law, the statement said, adding that if the fisherman files a civil lawsuit in Japan asking for compensation, the ministry would offer help too.
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