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Activists back after Diaoyutais face-off
Publication Date : 25-01-2013
A Taiwanese fishing boat with activists onboard returned home yesterday after a face-off with Japanese coast guard ships near the disputed Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea.
The incident was part of the activists' latest attempt to approach the area in a symbolic display of sovereignty over the island group amid swelling tensions in the region.
The ship, the Chuan Chia Fu, left Shen-ao harbor in New Taipei City early yesterday and entered waters near the Diaoyutai Islands at around 10am under the escort of four vessels belonging to Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration (CGA).
The seven people onboard the fishing vessel were Chinese Association for Protecting the Diaoyutais Chairman Hsieh Mang-lin, four fellow activists, the ship's captain, an Indonesian crew member and a reporter.
Hsieh previously told local media they were planning to install a statue of Mazu on one of the islands in the hope that the Taoist sea goddess would protect the safety of Taiwanese fishermen operating in the area.
As the Taiwanese ship moved toward the Diaoyutais, which is claimed by Taiwan, Japan and China, it was intercepted and blocked by eight Japan Coast Guard ships about 28 nautical miles from the island group.
At around 10:30am, Japanese vessels began to fire water cannon at the Taiwanese ship. A The CGA patrol responded by firing a water cannon toward the Japanese coast guard ships.
After a standoff, the Chuan Chia Fu ended its operations and set off for Taiwan proper under the escort of the CGA fleet at around 11:30am.
According to the CGA, this was the Taiwanese vessel's third attempt in a year to sail to the disputed island chain.
The CGA said three Chinese surveillance ships were also spotted near the area during the incident.
Incident could hinder fishery talks
A Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official yesterday said the Taiwanese ship's actions could hinder planned Taipei-Tokyo fishery talks.
Su Chii-cherng, deputy director-general of MOFA's Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said Japanese authorities have filed a protest with Taiwan over the incident.
But the central government has firmly stood by its sovereignty claim to the region, saying that the trip had been approved by local authorities and that the ship was entitled to operate in fishing grounds near the Diaoyutais.
Su, however, said Tokyo has hinted that the incident could jeopardize a second preparatory meeting for the long-stalled 17th round of Taiwan-Japan fishery talks.
The meeting, originally set to be held in January or February this year, was meant for both sides to reach a consensus on fishing boundaries around the disputed Diaoyutai Islands.
At the first preparatory meeting held in Tokyo on Nov 30, 2012 both parties failed to reach a consensus regarding fishing operations in the region.
The previous 16 rounds of fishery talks, dating back to 1996, failed to deliver concrete results and the talks, which were originally supposed to be annual, have been stalled since 2009.