Taiwan will push ahead with plans to set up a national marine park near disputed islands in the East China Sea also claimed by Japan and China, a top official said on Wednesday.
Interior Minister Lee Hong-yuan made the remarks in parliament, one day after dozens of Taiwanese boats entered territorial waters around the disputed islands to press Taipei’s claim.
“The Ministry of the Interior will keep working on the establishment of the planned marine national park,” Lee told legislators, without giving details.
The planned national park will cover three Taiwan-held islets – Pengjia, Mianhua and Huaping and surrounding waters, measuring some 750 square kilometres, according to authorities.
Lee said during a recent visit to Pengjia islet, which lies about 140 kilometres west of the disputed islands known as Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese, that he hoped the park could be set up soon.
His comments came as he reiterated Taipei’s claim to the Diaoyu islands and said the government would step up efforts to protect its fishermen working in the disputed waters.
“We will protect the fishermen more actively to help them fight for their rights in Diaoyu Islands. There is no doubt that the (islands’) sovereignty is ours,” Lee said. “We will also seek consensus with Japan and China.”
The uninhabited but strategically positioned archipelago is administered by Japan and has long been at the centre of a bitter territorial row between Japan and China.
Dozens of Taiwanese fishing boats escorted by coastguard vessels traded water cannon fire with Japanese vessels around the disputed islands and returned to Taiwan late on Tuesday to a hero’s welcome.
Taiwan’s coastguard confirmed that nearly 60 boats got close to the islands, some coming within three nautical miles – well inside the 12-nautical-mile territorial exclusion zone.