Diaoyu Islands

We vow not to give in even an inch, Taiwanese president Ma tells Japan

Taiwanese president fires verbal warning and dispatches two ships to the East China Sea to protest against Japan's decision to buy Diaoyus

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 September, 2012, 10:03am

Taiwan sent patrol ships to the hotly contested East China Sea for a fishing escort drill yesterday, the latest symbolic protest against Japan's decision this week to buy three of the five uninhibited Diaoyu Islands.

The move came just two days after Beijing dispatched two marine surveillance ships in its own show of force near the disputed islands, which the Japanese call the Senkakus.

Beijing, Taipei and Tokyo, all claim sovereignty over the islands, although the Japanese have controlled them since 1972.

Meanwhile, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou reiterated Taipei's claim over the Diaoyus during a history seminar. Ma said the Diaoyus had been Taiwan's territory since before 1895, the year the Qing dynasty government in Beijing ceded Taiwan to the Japanese after the first Sino-Japanese war.

"In terms of sovereignty, we vow not to give in even an inch," Ma said.

In yesterday's display, two Taiwanese Coast Guard Administration vessels - the 500-tonne Lienchiang and the 600-tonne Hualien - sailed for a point 25 nautical miles west of the Diaoyu Islands. They were trailed by a larger observation ship with 40 journalists and 60 fishery union officials.

There, the patrol crews demonstrated how they would escort Taiwanese fishing boats seeking to fish in the marine-life-rich waters near the contested chain. They briefed the observers on each ship's onboard weapons - a 20-mm cannon and two 50-mm calibre guns - that could be used to protect fisherman.

"Our duty is to escort our fishing boats wherever they operate in our territorial waters," said Lee Mao-jung, the deputy director-general of the Taiwanese coastguard.

Lee said the drill staged yesterday was to assure the public and fishermen of the government's determination to protect their legal activities within Taiwan's territorial waters. In the past, Taiwan fishermen who entered the waters have often been chased away by the Japanese coastguard.

The decades-old dispute over the potentially resource-rich islands escalated this week after Tokyo signed a deal with a private Japanese landowner to purchase the three islets for 2.05 billion yen (HK$203 million).

Earlier this week, Taipei recalled its top envoy from Tokyo and lodged a formal protest with the Japanese government.