Powder keg: 50 Taiwanese boats intrude near Senkakus, Japan wards off boats with water canons

Tuesday, September 25, 2012
By Paul Martin

September 25, 2012

CHINA SEA – About 40 Taiwanese fishing boats and 12 patrol ships intruded into Japanese territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands on Tuesday morning to assert Taipei’s claim to the Japan-controlled chain. The armada further intensified the territorial dispute that has already seen ties between Japan and China deteriorate. It was the first time such a large number of foreign vessels have intruded into the territorial waters since the diplomatic row over Japan and China broke out last month. The Taiwanese fishing ships started entering waters near the islands around 7:40 a.m., and had left the area by midday, according to Japan Coast Guard officials. The coast guard repeatedly sought to prevent the Taiwanese ships from approaching the islets by spraying water over them. But the accompanying Taiwanese patrol ships responded to the warnings by announcing that it is their right to operate in Taiwanese territorial waters, according to the Japan Coast Guard. There were no major clashes between the Japanese and Taiwanese maritime authorities, but officials confirmed that three Taiwanese patrol ships had fired their water cannons at the Japanese patrol boats. “We’d like to do our best to conduct vigilance and monitoring activities,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said during a morning news conference. Fujimura called for calm diplomatic reactions by both sides. “(The issue) should be solved through a good Japan-Taiwan relationship. We’d like to respond in a level-headed manner,” he said. Taiwanese fishermen were reportedly concerned that their territorial claim has been overshadowed by the recent diplomatic wrangling between Beijing and Tokyo over the disputed islets. On Tuesday in Beijing, Vice Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai met with his Chinese counterpart, Zhang Zhijun, for the first time since the nationalization was carried out to explain Tokyo’s position on the issue. The Taiwanese fishing boats carried banners saying they will defend Tiaoyutai, as the islands are known in Taiwan. In China they are called Diaoyu.”Usually as many as 50 boats won’t fish in one area at one time. It’s clear they came intentionally to claim territorial rights over the islands,” said Yasumasa Higa, 55, a fisherman from Ishigaki Island in Okinawa Prefecture. –Japan Times

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