It's time to get tough on the Diaoyutai chain: Ma

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wed, Oct 26, 2005 - Page 4

On the 60th anniversary of Retrocession Day, the government should not forget about the Diaoyutais (釣魚台) and should continue the fight to regain their sovereignty, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday.

Making the remarks during the "Sixtieth Anniversary of Retrocession Day: Memorial of the Diaoyutais" ceremony, the Taipei mayor added that the islands belonged to Taiwan and should have been returned along with Taiwan when the Japanese renounced sovereignty over the island.

"The Diaoyutais were listed as part of China's territory in written statements as early as the Ming Dynasty. How can these islands not be part of our territory? Japan failed to renounce control of them in 1945 and has since claimed sovereignty over the islands. This is called `stealing,'" Ma said.

The ceremony, organized by Taipei City's Cultural Affairs Bureau at Zhongshan Hall, was designed to raise public awareness of the Diaoyutais.

Bureau Director Liao Hsien-hao (廖咸浩) said the history behind Retrocession Day should not be ignored or forgotten, and that people in Taiwan should always remember the difficult days of the period of colonization.

"Highlighting the Diaoyutais' this year is to help the public further understand the exploitation and discrimination that Taiwanese people suffered under the Japanese from the beginning of its colonization," he said.

Following a rendition of Taiwan Retrocession performed by the Beitou Elementary School Choir, representatives of several fisherman's associations from Nanfangao (南方澳), Ilan County, carried bottles of sea water taken from the Pacific Ocean around the Diaoyutais.

Liao Da-chin (廖大慶), director-general of the Fishing Wire Association, complained that the fishing grounds around the Diaoyutais were shrinking due to Japan's incessant oppression.

"Earlier this month, a fishing boat was fishing around a reef, not even in the Diaoyutais area, and it was still detained by the Japanese Coast Guard because they said it had strayed into Japan's territory. This kind of thing is happening over and over again, and we don't have anywhere else we can fish," he said.

Ma, who has studied the issue of the Diaoyutais over the past 30 years, promised to look into the case and urged the government to "stand firm" against Japan over the sovereignty of the islands.

"It is useless to talk about fishing rights if you don't deal with the issue of sovereignty first," Ma said.

The Diaoyutais are held by the Japanese, where they are known as the Senkakus.

In recent months, controversy over the sovereignty of the chain has become a sticking point in Taiwanese-Japanese relations after fishermen held a large-scale demonstration in July to protest what they called the unfair treatment they had received at the hands of the Japanese Coast Guard.