Decision to send frigate into troubled waters draws opposition condemnation In a move seen as a direct challenge to Japan, Taiwanese Defence Minister Lee Jye will board a navy frigate which is headed to the disputed Diaoyu Islands to demonstrate Taiwan's determination to protect its fishermen. Admiral Lee and lawmakers would board a 3,000-tonne US-made Knox-class frigate on Tuesday to inspect what authorities were doing to protect Taiwanese fishermen operating in the disputed waters, legislator Lin Yu-fang of the opposition People First Party said yesterday. 'Minister Lee agreed instantly [to go with us] and most possibly sail from Suao in Ilan county. Basically, it is to enter the anti-air-identification zone,' Mr Lin said, referring to the waters around the Diaoyu Islands, claimed by Japan, the mainland and Taiwan. The Defence Ministry has been under fire since it refused to send warships to help protect Taiwanese fishermen operating in the disputed region. Opposition legislators have threatened to veto a controversial NT$480 billion ($119 billion) budget request to buy sophisticated weapons, including submarines, from the United States. After a closed-door meeting on Thursday with legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng and Mr Lin, who is the convener of the legislature's Defence Committee, Admiral Lee agreed to send a frigate to help the fishermen. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday criticised the opposition for forcing the Defence Ministry to send a frigate to the disputed waters. 'Someone is trying to turn the warship into a yacht ... This is not the way to resolve fishery disputes. It will not help protect our fishermen but will further create troubles in our talks with another country,' said Lai Ching-te, the DPP's caucus head. He said the biggest sovereignty threat to Taiwan came not from Japan but from the mainland. Angered by seizures of their boats, heavy fines and imprisonment by Japanese authorities over the past two years, Taiwanese fishermen last week staged a protest 86 nautical miles off Taiwan's northeast coast against the Japanese coastguard. The night before, eight Taiwanese vessels surrounded a Japanese coastguard boat, refusing to allow it to leave after it chased a fishing boat into Taiwanese waters. The Taiwanese coastguard allowed the Japanese vessel to leave to avoid a clash with Japan. But the move was labelled a cowardly act by Taiwanese fishermen, who claimed the government must uphold the island's 200-nautical-mile economic zone, which overlaps Japan's. Some fishermen said if the government did not act, they would seek help from the mainland, while others threatened to confront the Japanese coastguard. The conflict also raised nationalist sentiment in Taiwan, with angry protesters demonstrating this week outside the Interchange Association, Japan's quasi-embassy. Yesterday, 50 protesters from fishery unions and a nationalist group tore up Japan's national flag and pelted the office with fish. They also mocked Taiwanese Foreign Minister Mark Chen Tan-sun for speaking in favour of Japan. The Foreign Ministry has appealed to fishermen to stay calm, saying the government would do all it could to settle the dispute through negotiations.