10-hour stand-off between Taiwanese coastguard and Japanese patrol ship sparks call for talks
- National Taiwan University research vessel was 69 nautical miles off Hualien when patrol ship said it was within Japan’s exclusive economic zone
- Local critics argue that if relations between Taiwan and Japan are as good as Tsai government claims, such incidents would not keep occurring
The stand-off took place on the morning of September 29 when a Taiwanese coastguard ship demanded that a Japanese patrol vessel stop interfering in the marine science project of the Taiwanese research boat.
The National Taiwan University’s New Ocean Researcher vessel was conducting the project in waters 69 nautical miles off the southeast coast of Hualien when the Japanese patrol ship demanded it leave the area, claiming it was within Japan’s 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone, according to the Taiwanese coastguard.
“We received a report from the research vessel and immediately sent our patrol ship Hualien to the scene where we found the Japanese ship in waters near the research boat,” said Chen Yuan-chin, an official with the island’s coastguard, on Wednesday.
He said the Taiwanese coastguard ship then positioned itself between the Japanese vessel and the New Ocean Researcher and broadcast a demand that the Japanese ship stop interfering with the island’s research vessel, which was operating in Taiwan’s exclusive economic zone.
The Japanese vessel left the scene at 9pm that night after the New Ocean Researcher moved away from the area, according to the island’s coastguard.
The New Ocean Researcher returned to Hualien harbour on October 1 after completing its ocean project, Taiwan’s coastguard said in a statement.
“We will continue to do the utmost to protect the rights and safety of our science research vessels in line with our existing guidelines and practices,” it said.
Local critics accused Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s government of failing to uphold the island’s rights and of tolerating Japan’s continued violation of Taipei’s exclusive economic zone.
Taiwanese media commentary argued that if relations between Taiwan and Japan – which do not have formal ties – were as good as the Tsai government described, such incidents would not keep occurring.
Joanne Ou, spokeswoman for Taiwan’s foreign ministry, said on Wednesday that Taipei had a full understanding of the developing incident which was an issue concerning overlapping exclusive economic zones.
“Both Taiwan and Japan have their own stances on their exclusive economic zones … There have long been disputes over the operation of fishing boats and research vessels in the overlapping areas,” she said.
“There is a need for the two sides to speedily hold talks in order to resolve the disputes in reasonable and mutually beneficial ways.”