The Diaoyu Islands are a group of uninhabited islands located roughly due east of mainland China, northeast of Taiwan, west of Okinawa Island, and north of the southwestern end of the Ryukyu Islands. They are currently controlled by Japan, which calls them Senkaku Islands. Both China and Taiwan claim sovereignty over the islands.
Taiwanese fishing boats set sail for disputed Diaoyus in East China Sea
Flotilla comprising 78 vessels plans to enter Japan's territorial zone around disputed isles
Dozens of Taiwanese fishing boats set sail yesterday for disputed islands in the East China Sea that are also claimed by the mainland and Japan.
The fishermen aim to highlight Taiwan's claim over the uninhabited Diaoyu Islands - known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan - that lie 200 kilometres from Taiwan and 400 kilometres from the Okinawan capital Naha.
The islands, which are controlled by Japan, lie on vital shipping lanes and are located near potentially rich gas fields.
The flotilla of 78 fishing boats, flying Taiwan flags and brandishing protest banners, left Suao port in northeastern Taiwan yesterday morning and were expected to arrive around dawn today.
Once there, they planned to sail inside Japan's 12-nautical-mile territorial zone surrounding the disputed islands.
The number of vessels could swell, according to the activist group that organised the protest.
"I'm certain there will be more [boats] based at other fishing ports to join us," Lin Cheng-an, spokesman for the Suao Fishermen's Association, said.
Chen Chun-sheng, head of the association, said at the weekend: "Diaoyutai has been our traditional fishing ground for centuries. We pledge to use our lives to protect it, or we'd disgrace our ancestors."
The departing boats carried signs written in Chinese reading "Diaoyutai belongs to Taiwan" and "Fighting for fishing rights for survival".
Taiwan's coastguard sent at least 10 patrol boats alongside the fishing vessels, a Coast Guard Administration official said.
On Sunday, more than 1,000 slogan-chanting Taiwanese activists and their supporters rallied outside the de facto Japanese embassy in Taipei, calling for a boycott of Japanese goods.
Japan announced this month that it had completed a planned purchase of some of the islands, prompting Taiwan to recall its envoy to Tokyo and triggering mass protests on the mainland.