President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday unveiled two new ships that are to join patrols in waters off the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in the East China Sea.
“We will gradually build up our capabilities in the sea to enforce the law, to conduct rescue missions and protect fishermen,” Ma said before boarding a new ship to inspect a drill off the Port of Kaohsiung.
Taiwan will not “concede one step” in upholding its sovereignty claim over the islands, he said as he renewed his calls for the nations involved to negotiate and set aside their claims to the islands and jointly develop the rich natural resources there.
The contested islands, in an area where the seabed is believed to harbor valuable mineral reserves, are claimed by Taiwan as well as Japan and China.
In January, coast guard vessels from Taiwan and Japan converged and dueled with water cannons in their latest stand-off as a boat carrying Taiwanese activists was heading to the islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan.
The incident came at a time of growing regional concern over the intensified friction over the islands between China and Japan, with both Beijing and Tokyo recently scrambling fighter jets to assert their claims to the area.
Coast guard vessels from Taiwan and Japan also exchanged water cannon barrages in September last year after dozens of Taiwanese boats were escorted by patrol ships into the islands’ waters.
Japan’s government nationalized three islets in September last year by taking them out of private Japanese ownership, triggering strong protests from Taiwan and China.