Taiwan condemned Japan for sinking a Taiwanese boat near the Diaoyu Islands and was preparing to send armed vessels to safeguard Taiwanese rights in the disputed island group in the East China Sea. 'We sternly protest against the Japanese government vessel for sinking our boat in our territorial waters and detaining the boat captain,' Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou said. While asserting Taiwan's long-time claim over the Diaoyu Islands and its determination to safeguard its territory, Mr Ma demanded that Japan immediately release the captain and compensate for his loss. 'We have asked our coastguard to immediately upgrade and fortify its fleet and facilities to uphold our sovereignty and safeguard our fishing rights,' he said in a four-point statement issued after intense criticism from both ruling and opposition party lawmakers for what they saw as government inaction in defending the islands. The Diaoyus are claimed by Taiwan, the mainland and Japan. The latest conflict came after the Japanese coastguard sank a small Taiwanese angling boat that had accidentally sailed into the disputed waters before dawn on Tuesday. All 16 people - 13 fishermen and three crewmen - fell overboard but were rescued by the Japanese coastguard, which later returned all the anglers and two crewmen but held the captain pending punishment. The incident tests the crisis management skills of Mr Ma, known for his no-compromise position on the territorial claim over the Diaoyus. He reacted to the incident only yesterday following a protest by citizens and harsh criticism by lawmakers. By contrast, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing responded on Tuesday, expressing 'strong dissatisfaction' with how Japan handled the incident. Curiously, Taiwanese TV yesterday broadcast harsh comments made by Mr Ma when he was still the mayor of Taipei in 2005, during which he lashed out at then president Chen Shui-bian of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party for being 'limp' in dealing with Japan over a similar incident. At that time, he demanded that Mr Chen get tough to protect Taiwanese fishing rights 'even at the expense of a war'. DPP lawmakers mocked Mr Ma yesterday, asking: 'Where has that hot-blooded patriotic person gone?' Frustrated Kuomintang lawmakers also criticised the Ma administration for failing to take speedy action. They were furious when it was found later that a Taiwanese Foreign Ministry official in charge of Japanese affairs actually instructed a Taiwanese coastguard vessel to leave the disputed waters when it entered to try to help the Taiwanese and gather information. 'The defence minister must have the warships and missiles ready to protect our fishermen and prepare for war,' KMT lawmaker Lin Yu-fang said. Party cohort Shuai Hua-min said the defence ministry should turn the uninhabited Diaoyu Islands into the air force's firing practice zone. Dozens of protesters demonstrated outside Japan's de facto embassy in Taipei. They demanded the immediate release of the captain, an apology and compensation. They later marched to the Taiwanese Foreign Ministry to demand tough action. Presidential Office spokesman Wang Yu-chi said Mr Ma was very concerned about the case. Cabinet spokeswoman Vanessa Shih Yea-ping said the government had issued a deadline for Japan to apologise and pay compensation.