Wed, Jun 18, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Officials drop plan to visit Diaoyutais

SOVEREIGNTYWu Poh-hsiung and the Presidential Office persuaded a KMT legislator to call off the trip after Japan softened its stance ‘because of Taipei’s hard line’

By Shih Hsiu-Chuan and Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Ho Hung-yi, second left, captain of the Taiwanese boat that collided with a Japan Coast Guard vessel near the Diaoyutai islands last week, demonstrates how he used a lifeboat during his ordeal, at an international press conference held by the Taipei County Government yesterday.

PHOTO: HSU CHAO-CHANG, CNA

The Legislative Yuan’s Diplomacy and National Defense Committee has decided to back down from its plan to make an inspection trip to the disputed Diaoyutai (釣魚台) islands today, committee head Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said yesterday.

Lin, who on Monday was insistent on making the trip, told reporters yesterday that he had changed his mind after he received telephone calls from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) and senior officials from the Presidential Office on Monday night.

Lin, a KMT legislator, said Wu and the officials urged him “to allow the Ministry of Foreign Affairs more time to negotiate with Tokyo now that Japan has softened its stance because of Taipei’s hard line on the issue.”

“Since activists and Coast Guard Administration vessels approached to within 0.4 nautical miles of the Diaoyutais yesterday [Monday], we have effectively asserted our sovereignty over the islands,” Lin said. “I think the party, the administration and the Presidential Office should take a united stance [on the issue]. Therefore, after consulting some friends on the committee, we agreed to suspend the trip.”

The committee was originally scheduled to take a fact-finding tour of the island group under the escort of naval vessels today to “claim sovereignty and protect the rights of Taiwanese fishing boats.”

The plan was conceived following an incident that occurred on June 10 in waters near the Diaoyutais, when a Taiwanese boat, registered in Taipei County, carrying recreational fishermen sank after it collided with a Japanese patrol vessel.

Boat owner Ho Hung-yi (何鴻義) was held for three days by Japanese authorities on the island of Ishigaki.

At a separate setting yesterday, Ho, accompanied by Taipei County Commissioner Chou Hsi-wei (周錫瑋) of the KMT, held an international press conference in which they accused the Japanese side of ramming into the boat on purpose and said that Japanese officials had then lied about the incident afterward.

Chou hosted the press conference with DVDs, press statements, photos and footage available in English.

“We wanted to tell the whole story and provide the evidence so that the international media can tell our friends around the world how immoral the Japanese were when they struck the Taiwanese boat,” Chou said in English.

The attendees were shown photos and video footage that Ho said were taken by some fishermen and crew members using mobile phones and cameras, and a radar picture from the Japanese government.

The radar picture showed the course of the fishing boat and the relative location of the patrol vessel and demonstrated that the Taiwanese boat did not navigate in a zigzag pattern as Japanese officials have claimed, crew member Hsiang Yan-hao (項彥豪) said.

“Our boat was not weaving, because the scene was captured without any evidence of swaying,” Hsiang said when playing the footage taken by the fishermen.

Hsiang said the Japanese patrol vessel hit the fishing boat deliberately, which he said was proven by footage showing the patrol vessel grazing the boat after the first strike.

“The Japanese patrol vessel hit the bridge of the boat and then it reversed, which shows that the collision was planned,” Hsiang said.

Hsiang said they hid their mobile phones and cameras in a refrigerator following the collision.

Japanese authorities have released the results of an investigation into the incident in which it says the Japan Coast Guard had recommended that authorities charge both Ho and the captain of the Japanese patrol boat with “incurring danger due to negligence of official duties” and additionally charge the Japanese captain with “incurring harm due to negligence of official duties.”

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