More than 70 activists gathered outside Japan’s representative office in Taipei yesterday tore up Japanese rising sun flags in a protest against the country’s move to buy three of the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), known as the Senkakus in Japan, from their private owner.
The activists, including members of the Taiwan Labor Party, said that Japan’s move to purchase and nationalize the islands, part of a chain that is also claimed by Taiwan and China, has undermined stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
Demanding that Japan stop what they described as the “illegal occupation” of the uninhabited islands, the demonstrators chanted slogans and threw shreds of the torn-up Japanese flags at the Taipei office of the Interchange Association, Japan, Tokyo’s de facto embassy in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties.
Office personnel accepted a protest letter from the demonstrators after the 30-minute rally and promised to forward it to their superiors.
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard Administration said it would continue its regular missions to protect Taiwanese fishermen operating in waters near the islands and that it does not rule out increasing the number of boats patrolling the area when Taiwanese activists head to the islands to make sovereignty claims.
The remarks came in response to reports that fishermen’s associations have vowed to dispatch more than 100 vessels to the islands if the government plans any activities in the region to bolster Taiwan’s claim.
Although the Diaoyutais fall within a “provisional enforcement line” tentatively agreed upon by Japan and Taiwan, Japanese patrol ships tend to harass or disperse Taiwanese fishing boats if they are within 12 nautical miles (22km) of the islands.
The Suao Fishermen’s Association said yesterday that the operations of Taiwanese fishing vessels are not affected as long as they stay at least 12 nautical miles from the archipelago.
Association director Lin Yueh-ying (林月英) said that, so far, she had not heard of any plans by fishermen to sail to the disputed area to protest or make territorial claims.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s APEC envoy Lien Chan (連戰) yesterday said he had called on Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to handle the dispute over the Diaoyutais in accordance with international laws and to resolve the issue peacefully.
Lien and Noda met on Saturday on the sidelines of an APEC leaders’ forum and exchanged ideas on issues including economic cooperation, negotiations on fishing rights and cooperation in the fishing industry.
While Noda proposed to strengthen efforts to push forward cooperation in the fishing industry, Lien called on Japan to exercise self-restraint when handling territorial disputes in the East China Sea.
In the wake of Japan’s move to nationalize some of the disputed Diaoyutai Islands, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recalled Taiwan’s representative to Japan Shen Ssu-tsun (沈斯淳).
Shen returned to Taiwan yesterday to brief the ministry on the latest developments.