A Taiwanese fishing boat, escorted by five coast guard vessels, yesterday approached to within 0.4 nautical miles (740m) of the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), in the largest flare-up in tensions over the islets since since 2008.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura condemned the act at a press conference yesterday morning, saying that under no circumstances and for no reason are Taiwanese activists allowed to enter the waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands, the Japanese term for the Diaoyutai Islands, Japan’s Sankei Shimbun reported yesterday.
The Sankei Shimbun reported that an information contact point under a Cabinet crisis management center had been set up at Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s official residence to monitor the situation.
The Interchange Association, Japan, which represents Japan in Taipei, registered its protest with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ East Asian Relations Commission.
Hsieh Ching-chin (謝慶欽), an official at the Coast Guard Administration in Taipei, said last night that it was the strongest protest the Japanese government has made over the territorial dispute since 2008.
The last time a Japanese chief Cabinet secretary made an official complaint was on June 16, 2008, when Taiwanese activists came within 0.4 nautical miles of the island, the closest Taiwanese activists have ever come to the Diaoyutai Islands, Hsieh said.
The June 16 event occurred five days after Japan arrested a Taiwanese fishing boat captain following a collision near the islands, he said.
In Taipei, the government adopted a relatively low-key approach.
Executive Yuan spokesperson Hu Yu-wei (胡幼偉) declined to comment, saying the question should be referred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Keelung City Coast Guard unit captain Chen Sih-chuan (陳泗川), who was in charge of protecting the Taiwanese fishing boat, called a press conference at 5:30pm to explain the mission.
Chen said that coast guard personnel prevented Japanese maritime authorities from boarding a Taiwanese fishing boat at 8:57am and a patrol vessel had a minor collision with a Japanese patrol vessel at 11:46am on their way back to Keelung.
The fishing boat, with nine people on board — three activists, three sailors and three fishermen — set sail at 11:34pm on Thursday night and the coast guard dispatched five vessels to escort the fishing boat at about 8:25am, Chen said.
Chen said the fishing boat, surrounded by five patrol vessels, started to return at 9:02am, while Japanese patrol vessels followed them until the collision occurred.
“We conducted the mission to protect Taiwan’s sovereignty and its fishing boats, and maintain a ‘no conflict’ and ‘no avoidance’ policy in the Diaoyutai Islands,” he said.
Late last night, the ministry issued a press release saying it did not accept the protest lodged by the Interchange Association, Japan because Taiwanese fishing boats have the right to enter waters that belong to the Republic of China.