Fri, Aug 18, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Diaoyutai activists' boat turned away

PROTEST MISSION A group from the Taiwan Safeguard Diaoyutai Movement Union turned their boat away from the islets after being warned by the Japanese coast guard

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIES

Three Taiwanese activists show a national flag as they depart from Shenao harbor, Taipei County, on Wednesday for the Diaoyutai, vowing to protect the nation's sovereignty over the island group.

PHOTO: CNA

Five Taiwanese activists sailing a boat near the Diaoyutai (釣魚台) yesterday morning were warned off from approaching the disputed island group by the Japanese Coast Guard.

Yonghe City Councilor Huang Hsi-lin (黃錫麟), a member of the People First Party, is also a member of Taiwan Safeguard Diaoyutai Movement Union.

Along with four members of the union, he rented a fishing boat to sail to the disputed islets, known as the Senkaku in Japan.

"The vessel left for the Diaoyutai at 1:45am from the port of Shenao (深澳) in Ilan County, and returned to the port at 12:40pm," the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) said in a press statement yesterday.

The CGA said it had dispatched vessels to follow the boat at a distance to safeguard it.

Huang told the Broadcasting Corp of China (BCC) that Japanese boats attempted to intercept his vessel.

"As my boat sailed more than 40 nautical miles [74km] from the port at around 4am, four Japanese boats began monitoring my boat," he said.

He said that by shortly after 5am there were a total of seven Japanese boats and three helicopters near his vessel.

"As my boat sailed to around 12 nautical miles from the Diaoyutai, the Japanese boats began issuing warnings, asking my boat to leave," he said.

Huang said he decided to turn his boat around after one of the Japanese boats approached his vessel in an apparent effort to hit it.

He said yesterday's voyage was just the beginning, adding that he plans to "launch a campaign inviting activists engaged in safeguarding the Diaoyutai movement from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and China to sail together to the islets" at the end of the year to protest against Japan's claim.

According to the Japanese Coast Guard, Huang and his companions were protesting against Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit on Tuesday to the Yakasuni Shrine in Tokyo and to press claims to the Diaoyutai.

The Taiwanese activists threw stones at the Japanese patrol boat, waved banners condemning Kozumi's visit to the shrine honoring Japan's war dead and shouted, "Down the Japanese militarism ... Assert our sovereignty over the Diaoyutai."

Japan formally protested to Taiwan yesterday over the activists' excursion, the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo said.

"We lodged a protest with Taiwan over the incident, reminding them that the Senkakus are Japan's inherent territory," Foreign Ministry official Kaitaro Nonomura said.

He said the activists left the scene before violating Japanese territorial waters.

In Taipei, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said he hoped relations with Tokyo would not worsen as a result of the incident.

"We maintain our claims of sovereignty over the Diaoyutai, but we do not want to see relations with Japan influenced by this incident," Lu said.

He emphasized Taiwan's wish for a peaceful resolution of international disputes.

"We understand the patriotism of our citizens, but we want problems to be solved in a peaceful way," he said.

The island chain is surrounded by rich fishing grounds and is regularly visited by nationalists from both sides, as well as China, which also claims the territory.

Japan annexed the islands in 1895 when it colonized Taiwan. The US controlled the islets after World War II and returned them to Japan in 1972, along with the Ryuku Island chain.

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