Coast guard vessels from Taiwan and Japan dueled with water cannons yesterday as Taiwanese fishing boats sailed close to the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) to assert Taiwanese sovereignty over the islets.
The fishing boats came as close as 3 nautical miles (5.5km) to the Diaoyutais, known as the Senkakus in Japan, but were thwarted from making a possible landing by Japanese coast guard vessels, which deterred the protesters from approaching any further.
The Taiwanese boats arrived near the Diaoyutais at about 5am yesterday after sailing overnight escorted by 10 Coast Guard Administration (CGA) ships.
Photo: Kyodo / Reuters
The fishing boats assembled 18 nautical miles off the Diaoyutais to prepare for their planned circumnavigation of the island group in pods of five ships each. Their approach led to a standoff between the Taiwanese coast guard ships and their Japanese counterparts.
More than 10 Japanese patrol boats used flashlights and water cannons to disperse the Taiwanese fishing vessels, warning them over loudspeakers to leave. At one point, they also dropped smaller boats into the water and tried ramming them into the fishing boats.
CGA ships responded by firing water cannons and using loudspeakers and LED lights to say, in Chinese, “This is Taiwan’s territorial waters. You should not interfere with the operations of our fishermen.”
CGA ships sailed between the Taiwanese fishing vessels and Japanese patrol boats, at one point stopping in front of the Japanese boats to allow the fishing vessels room to maneuver.
Lin Jih-cheng (林日成), commander of an organizing committee on safeguarding fishing rights, said the ships were able to sail near the Diaoyutais and achieved the aim of their protest.
Considering the rough sea conditions, Lin announced at 9am that “the mission is completed, and all fishing boats will return to Nanfangao.”
CGA vessels remained about 4 nautical miles from the Diaoyutais to see that all fishing boats left the area safely.
The 75 Taiwanese fishing vessels, carrying banners reading “Defend our territorial waters” and “Diaoyutais are ours,” set off from the fishing port of Nanfangao (南方澳) in Yilan County on Monday to protest Japan’s recent move to nationalize the islands by buying three of them from a private owner.
The Diaoyutais, about 120 nautical miles northeast of Taipei, are administered by Japan, but claimed by Taiwan and China, and the fishermen wanted to assert Taiwanese sovereignty over the islands and their right to operate in what they call their traditional fishing grounds.
The CGA said its main goal was to prevent Japanese ships from boarding Taiwanese fishing boats or taking Taiwanese fishermen into custody.
CGA Deputy Director-General Wang Chung-yi (王崇儀) said the agency had simulated possible scenarios beforehand for the encounter and expected Japan to send large ships to the site.
“Japan mobilized 21 ships, with the largest weighing 6,000 tonnes,” Wang said.
He said that because of the rough sea conditions around the Diaoyutais, with waves as high as 4m, the CGA did not take more aggressive action, out of consideration for the fishing vessels.
He also said the coast guard did not encounter Chinese fishing boats during its escort mission, but noted that there were five Chinese patrol ships around the island chain, all outside the 12 nautical mile territorial zone.
The Ministry of National Defense said the navy dispatched one Cheng Kung and two Chi Yang-class frigates in waters off the coast of northeastern Taiwan in support of the Taiwanese fishing boats. Several sorties of F-16 and Mirage 2000 fighters also monitored the situation while conducting routine reconnaissance missions.
The island chain has been a traditional fishing ground of Taiwanese fishermen for several decades, but they have been harassed and chased away by Japanese coast guard ships in recent years.
Taiwan and Japan have held 16 rounds of fisheries talks to try to solve the dispute, to no avail.
TWO CASES: The five allegedly conspired with conglomerates, threatening the nation’s governance and subverting the rules of ethical conduct, a deputy chief prosecutor said Taipei prosecutors yesterday charged three legislators and one former lawmaker with contravening the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) in a case linked to former Pacific Distribution Investment Co (太平洋流通) chairman Lee Heng-lung’s (李恆隆) battle with the Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) chain, while independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) was indicted in a separate case involving two funeral services companies and a plot of land in a national park. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) and former New Power Party legislator
PENGHU INSPECTION: Taiwan cannot let its enemies strut around in its airspace, Tsai said, one day after a Chinese spokesman denied a median line exists in the Taiwan Strait Following China’s assertion on Monday that there is no “median line” in the Taiwan Strait, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday pledged to defend the nation’s airspace during a visit to an air force base in Penghu, saying that Taiwan cannot allow others to flex their military muscle in its territorial airspace. Tsai praised the “heroic performance” of the pilots of the Indigenous Defense Fighters who have been intercepting Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes in recent days. “I have a lot of confidence in you. As soldiers of the Republic of China [ROC], how could we let enemies strut
Swedish Member of Parliament Hampus Hagman is pushing for changing the name of the nation’s trade office in Taipei to signal improved relations with “Asia’s perhaps foremost democracy.” Hagman on Wednesday last week proposed renaming the Swedish Trade and Invest Council to “Sweden’s Office in Taipei,” following similar changes by other nations. The Swedish Trade and Invest Council, part of Business Sweden, is owned by the Swedish government and Swedish industry. Taiwan and Sweden share important values such as respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of speech, Hagman said in the motion, adding that the two nations
EFFICIENCY: The rules for Philippine arrivals were revised after 17.6% of arrivals with symptoms tested positive, compared with 0.7% of those with no symptoms Starting today, Chinese spouses who hold a reunion permit can apply to enter Taiwan and travelers without symptoms from the Philippines do not need to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, but are to be tested after a 14-day quarantine, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that from today, Chinese who are married to a Taiwanese citizen and hold a reunion permit can apply to the National Immigration Agency for entry into Taiwan. Chinese who are married to a foreign national and hold an accompanied reunion permit