Amid rising Sino-Japanese tensions over a collision at sea close to the disputed Diaoyutai islands (釣魚台) and the seizure by Japanese authorities of fishermen from Taiwan and China, Taipei yesterday lodged a protest against Japan over what it called “interference” with Taiwanese vessels in the area.
The protest came after the fishing boat Kan En No. 99, which was carrying three Taiwanese activists heading to the Diaoyutais to declare that Taiwanese fishermen have the right to fish there, was turned back by Japanese patrol vessels yesterday morning.
The Taiwanese government was “deeply dissatisfied” with the actions of the Japanese patrol vessels and immediately lodged a protest with the Japanese government, Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesman James Chang (章計平) told a press conference after a senior-level government meeting on the matter.
The Coast Guard Administration, which had dispatched 12 vessels to protect the Kan En, said the ship encountered seven Japanese patrol vessels 23 nautical miles (42.6km) southeast of the Diaoyutais at 1:47am yesterday.
Stopped by the Japanese vessels, the Kan En, with Taiwanese coast guard vessels nearby, engaged in a five-and-a-half-hour standoff with the Japanese vessels before its crew decided to turn back. The closest the fishing boat ever came to the Diaoyutais was 18.5 nautical miles, at about 4:50am, the coast guard said.
“Although we were escorted by Taiwanese coast guard vessels, they were no match for the Japanese ships,” the Chung Hwa Baodiao Alliance, the local organization behind the sortie, said on its Web site.
During the standoff, coast guard vessels used LEDs to broadcast the message: “The Diaoyutai islands are in Taiwan’s sea area. Please do not dispute the nation’s fishing activity. The coast guard is obligated to protect the nation’s fishermen.”
The Kan En returned to Yehliu, Taipei County, last night, after which its two occupants were to hold a press conference to describe their experience.
Discussing the incident, Chang said the Diaoyutais were part of the country’s “inherent territory” and “operations of ships in the area fall within its sovereign jurisdiction.”
During previous disputes over the islands, the ministry had limited itself to written or verbal statements. On Monday, however, Deputy Minister Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡), who is acting minister while Timothy Yang (楊進添) visits the nation’s allies in Latin America, summoned Japanese Representative to Taiwan Tadashi Imai to express the government’s concerns.
After the meeting, Kyodo News agency reported that Imai had lodged a protest with the ministry after the Kan En was allowed to leave port, calling the move “extremely regrettable” and saying this “could have an adverse effect on Japan-Taiwan relations.”
Asked why Shen had summoned Imai and why the government had allowed the boat to head toward the Diaoyutais at a time of escalating tensions, Chang said the decisions were in line with Taipei’s position and unrelated to the Sino-Japanese row.
Chang said the government “did not side with China against Japan” on the matter, adding that it wished the two governments could resolve disputes in a peaceful and rational manner to avoid escalation.
Meanwhile, about 100 people led by Chung Hwa Baodiao Alliance chairman Hsiao Wen-yi (蕭文義) yesterday protested in front of the Japan Interchange Association, the country’s semi-official mission in Taipei, burning the Rising Sun Flag — a symbol of imperial Japan, of which the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and the Maritime Self-Defense Force now use modified versions — and throwing dead fish.