Fishermen flag second rally if Taipei fails to act on Diaoyus

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 June, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 June, 2005, 12:00am

Angry Taiwanese fishermen yesterday threatened a second round of sea protests against Japan - including flying the flag of the People's Republic - if Taipei fails to enforce the island's 200 nautical-mile economic zone within a week.

The threat came a day after the fishermen accused the Taiwanese government of inaction over the island's fishing rights and economic zone, despite repeated challenges from Japan.

The Foreign Ministry yesterday asked the fishermen to refrain from entering the disputed waters before Taipei reaches an agreement with Japan.

At issue is Japan's claim over rich fishing grounds surrounding the disputed Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.

'Fishery unions in Taiwan are planning a second round of sea protests, which will be even bigger than the previous one, to safeguard our fishing rights,' said Chen Chien-chung, head of the Suao Fishery Association.

He said that if the government did not enforce the economic zone within a week, fishermen would unite for 'self-survival' and sail to the waters near the disputed Diaoyu island chain to challenge Japan's claim to the fishing grounds.

'Fishermen are unable to survive,' he said, adding Japanese vessels had repeatedly chased away Taiwanese fishermen and seized their boats.

About 50 fishing boats on Thursday sailed to the disputed waters to stage a protest against the Japanese coastguard. A Japanese patrol boat was surrounded after it chased some fishing boats into Taiwanese waters.

The Taiwanese coastguard called for restraint and let the Japanese vessel leave. This prompted angry protests by Taiwanese fishermen, who yesterday rallied outside the coastguard's Suao station in the northeastern of the island and denounced it for 'selling out Taiwan to Japan'.

The fishermen said that because of the government's inaction, Japan was chasing away more vessels and seizing more boats. Some said Japan was more tolerant towards mainlanders because Beijing had been firmer in protecting its fishermen. They said that if the Taiwanese government could not protect them, they would not rule out flying the People's Republic national flag to accept protection from the mainland.

Beijing has expressed 'strong regret' over Japan's actions towards the Taiwanese fishermen.