Coast guard vessels from Taiwan and Japan dueled with water cannons yesterday as Taiwanese fishing boats sailed close to the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) to assert Taiwanese sovereignty over the islets.
The fishing boats came as close as 3 nautical miles (5.5km) to the Diaoyutais, known as the Senkakus in Japan, but were thwarted from making a possible landing by Japanese coast guard vessels, which deterred the protesters from approaching any further.
The Taiwanese boats arrived near the Diaoyutais at about 5am yesterday after sailing overnight escorted by 10 Coast Guard Administration (CGA) ships.
Photo: Kyodo / Reuters
The fishing boats assembled 18 nautical miles off the Diaoyutais to prepare for their planned circumnavigation of the island group in pods of five ships each. Their approach led to a standoff between the Taiwanese coast guard ships and their Japanese counterparts.
More than 10 Japanese patrol boats used flashlights and water cannons to disperse the Taiwanese fishing vessels, warning them over loudspeakers to leave. At one point, they also dropped smaller boats into the water and tried ramming them into the fishing boats.
CGA ships responded by firing water cannons and using loudspeakers and LED lights to say, in Chinese, “This is Taiwan’s territorial waters. You should not interfere with the operations of our fishermen.”
CGA ships sailed between the Taiwanese fishing vessels and Japanese patrol boats, at one point stopping in front of the Japanese boats to allow the fishing vessels room to maneuver.
Lin Jih-cheng (林日成), commander of an organizing committee on safeguarding fishing rights, said the ships were able to sail near the Diaoyutais and achieved the aim of their protest.
Considering the rough sea conditions, Lin announced at 9am that “the mission is completed, and all fishing boats will return to Nanfangao.”
CGA vessels remained about 4 nautical miles from the Diaoyutais to see that all fishing boats left the area safely.
The 75 Taiwanese fishing vessels, carrying banners reading “Defend our territorial waters” and “Diaoyutais are ours,” set off from the fishing port of Nanfangao (南方澳) in Yilan County on Monday to protest Japan’s recent move to nationalize the islands by buying three of them from a private owner.
The Diaoyutais, about 120 nautical miles northeast of Taipei, are administered by Japan, but claimed by Taiwan and China, and the fishermen wanted to assert Taiwanese sovereignty over the islands and their right to operate in what they call their traditional fishing grounds.
The CGA said its main goal was to prevent Japanese ships from boarding Taiwanese fishing boats or taking Taiwanese fishermen into custody.
CGA Deputy Director-General Wang Chung-yi (王崇儀) said the agency had simulated possible scenarios beforehand for the encounter and expected Japan to send large ships to the site.
“Japan mobilized 21 ships, with the largest weighing 6,000 tonnes,” Wang said.
He said that because of the rough sea conditions around the Diaoyutais, with waves as high as 4m, the CGA did not take more aggressive action, out of consideration for the fishing vessels.
He also said the coast guard did not encounter Chinese fishing boats during its escort mission, but noted that there were five Chinese patrol ships around the island chain, all outside the 12 nautical mile territorial zone.
The Ministry of National Defense said the navy dispatched one Cheng Kung and two Chi Yang-class frigates in waters off the coast of northeastern Taiwan in support of the Taiwanese fishing boats. Several sorties of F-16 and Mirage 2000 fighters also monitored the situation while conducting routine reconnaissance missions.
The island chain has been a traditional fishing ground of Taiwanese fishermen for several decades, but they have been harassed and chased away by Japanese coast guard ships in recent years.
Taiwan and Japan have held 16 rounds of fisheries talks to try to solve the dispute, to no avail.
TAIWAN PROTECTION MEASURE: US Army General Charles Flynn would not say where in the Asia-Pacific the missiles would be sent, but only that they would arrive in 2024 The US is to send medium-range missiles including the Standard Missile 6 (SM-6) and Tomahawk to the Asia-Pacific next year to deter a Chinese attack on Taiwan, US military news Web site Defense One reported. The report cited comments US Army General Charles Flynn made during the annual Halifax International Security Forum on Nov. 19. “We have tested them and we have a battery or two of them today,” Flynn was quoted as saying. “In 24. We intend to deploy that system in your region. I’m not going to say where and when. But I will just say that we will
UNUSUAL UPTICK: There are more flu-like illnesses in northern China than in the past 3 years, but data from Beijing showed that known pathogens are responsible Responding to an uptick in respiratory illnesses in China, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday said it has instructed international airport and port quarantine centers to raise their alert levels, and plans to issue an alert to healthcare practitioners. The number of flu-like illnesses reported in northern China has been increasing for five consecutive weeks, and is higher than the same period in the past three years, CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said. “According to the WHO’s latest statement, issued yesterday, information provided by Chinese government showed that the illnesses were mainly reported among children, and the illnesses were attributed
LOYALTY: The 10 active and retired soldiers betrayed the nation and its people by leaking and passing on military secrets to China, the High Prosecutors’ Office said Ten former and current military officers were yesterday indicted on charges of spying for China, including two who allegedly filmed themselves pledging loyalty to Beijing. The High Prosecutors’ Office requested life imprisonment for the suspects in light of the severity of the crime. The 10 active-duty and retired officers included members of the 601st Brigade of the Aviation Special Forces comprising attack helicopter squadrons and elite combat units in charge of defending northern Taiwan, including Taipei. The other suspects came from Huadong Defense Command, in charge of defending the eastern coast; Kinmen Defense Command, in charge of defending Kinmen and Matsu; and one
‘OPEN TO DIALOGUE’: Her alliance with Vice President William Lai is based on their commitment to preserve the nation’s freedom and democracy, Hsiao Bi-khim said Taiwan should “trust, but verify” reports that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) denied that Beijing plans to invade Taiwan in 2027, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) vice presidential candidate Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) told reporters yesterday. “We anticipate and we hope that Chairman Xi Jinping was sincere when he said there was no timetable” for bringing Taiwan under control by force, said Hsiao, who earlier this week resigned as the representative to the US to join the ticket of DPP nominee, Vice President William Lai (賴清德). Borrowing a phrase from former US president Ronald Reagan — which US President Joe Biden also used after