War over islands not ruled out, Taipei says

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 June, 2008, 12:00am
 

Taiwan has toughened its position on its territorial claim to the Diaoyu Islands, saying it would not rule out war with Japan to uphold its sovereignty.

'I believe waging war to end a dispute like this should be the last resort,' Taiwanese Premier Liu Chao-shiuan told the legislature yesterday in response to lawmakers' queries about what the government should do to uphold its sovereignty.

Pressed by legislators over whether Taiwan would be ready for a war with Japan, Dr Liu said: 'We would not rule this out.'

His comments came after intense criticism by both government and opposition lawmakers that the government had failed to protect its people, resulting in the sinking of a small Taiwanese fishing boat by the Japanese coastguard near the Diaoyus. The island group is claimed by Taiwan, the mainland and Japan.

The incident occurred before dawn on Tuesday when the boat with 13 anglers and three crewmen was chased and hit by the larger coastguard vessel. The coastguard rescued all 16 people but detained the captain, demanding a fine of NT$500,000 (HK$128,600).

The incident sparked an outcry in Taiwan, with protests on Thursday in front of Japan's de facto embassy in Taipei demanding the immediate release of the captain, a public apology and compensation for the crew and anglers.

Japan's Foreign Ministry said it wanted to avoid damaging relations with Taiwan and was investigating the incident. It said it had already released the captain, who was expected to return to Taiwan last night.

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