The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) yesterday denied it had been informed of plans by some fishermen to sail to the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) to bolster Taiwan’s claim to sovereignty over the island chain, but said it would protect Taiwanese fishermen who travel to the area.
The coast guard’s remarks came in the wake of media reports that said fishermen in Yilan County were planning to sail to the islands on Saturday to illustrate Taiwan’s territorial claim over them. The islands lie about 120 nautical miles (220km) northeast of the country. According to the media reports, the coast guard said it is to dispatch patrol vessels to protect them.
The coast guard said it will continue its regular missions to protect Taiwanese fishermen operating in waters near the islands.
Meanwhile, responding to media reports that 1,000 China-registered fishing boats were to set sail for the islands yesterday to illustrate China’s claim to the disputed chain, the coast guard said that since a Chinese summer fishing moratorium has been lifted, it is highly unlikely that so many Chinese fishing boats would converge on the island cluster at once.
It said some of the boats are probably just sailing to other fishing grounds in the surrounding area.
Suao Fishermen’s Association director Lin Yueh-ying (林月英) said the disputed region is rich in natural resources and said that if fishermen voluntarily sail to the region to protest, the association will definitely lend assistance.
Meanwhile, Yilan County Councilor Lin Chi-shan (林棋山), of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), said the Taiwanese fishermen planning to sail to the Diaoyutais on Saturday are set to travel aboard 60 fishing vessels and asked for NT$5 million (US$170,160) from the county government in fuel subsidies. As far as the Republic of China government is concerned, the islands are under the administration of Yilan County, he said.
According to the councilor, the county government would be failing to support Taiwan’s position on the Diaoyutais issue if it refuses to subsidize the fishermen.
However, Yilan County Commissioner Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢) has declined to hand over any cash, saying that the focus should instead be on laying the groundwork for the next round of fishing rights talks between Taiwan and Japan.
Japan recently purchased three of the disputed islands from their private owners, prompting large-scale violent protests against Japan in China. The two countries, along with Taiwan, claim sovereignty over the islands.