The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) publicly demonstrated its procedures for escorting Taiwanese fishing boats operating near the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) yesterday, in what was seen as a fresh attempt to assert the country’s sovereignty over the disputed island group.
A duty changeover between the 500-tonne Lienchiang and the 600-tonne Hualien patrol boats was opened to press and politicians yesterday.
CGA officials said Taiwan currently conducts patrol operations near the Diaoyutais around the clock and that onsite changeovers can help shorten response times in the event of contingencies.
At present, the CGA has 161 ships and is expected to expand its fleet to 173 vessels by 2015.
The show of strength followed a decision by the Japanese government on Tuesday to buy three of the disputed islands from their private owner for ￥2.05 billion (US$26 million).
The Diaoyutais, known as the Senkakus in Japan, lie in the East China Sea, about 120 nautical miles (220km) northeast of Taiwan. The island group is claimed by Taiwan, Japan and China.
There have often been reports of Taiwanese fishermen being chased away from the area by Japan Coast Guard ships.
Describing the area as a traditional fishing ground of Taiwanese, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) instructed the CGA to increase its escort profile to provide services on a daily basis during the fishing season.
However, some fishermen have urged the government to take tougher action to protect their rights.
Wu Yao-liang (吳耀亮), a fisherman based in Suao (蘇澳), Yilan County, said Taiwan should vigorously fight for its sovereignty over the Diaoyutais in order to bring Japan’s attention more sharply to the issue.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Steve Hsia (夏季昌) said Taiwan is keeping a close eye on Japan’s moves in the islands dispute.
Hsia’s remarks came after Taiwan recalled its representative to Japan Shen Ssu-tsun (沈斯淳) in response to Japan’s decision to buy the three privately owned islands.
Reiterating that the Diaoyutais are an inherent part of the Republic of China’s territory, Hsia said the nation would uphold its sovereignty over the islands when negotiating with Japan on fishing rights.
Taipei and Tokyo are currently negotiating the timing of the next round of talks on fishing rights, Hsia said, adding that no timetable had been set.
Taiwan would stick with the principles of safeguarding its sovereignty, shelving differences, pursuing peace and reciprocity, and jointly exploring resources to peacefully and rationally resolve territorial disputes, he said.
In related news, the ministry said Taipei does not recognize a unilateral move by the Philippines to rename the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea of the Republic of the Philippines.
The ministry issued the statement in response to an administrative order recently signed by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to officially rename the South China Sea.