Thursday, September 06, 2012

Taiwan vows more patrols, China will 'defend territory' as Japan moves to buy disputed isle

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou on Wednesday pledged to dispatch more coastguard vessels to the disputed waters in the East China Sea, a move that could fuel simmering tensions in the area.

Ma told the coastguards to protect domestic fishermen operating in waters of the Diaoyutai, an island chain known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan.

"The duty of the coastguards is to ensure the safety of domestic fishermen and protect their interest," Ma said after hearing a report by Wang Chin-wang, chief of the Coast Guard Administration.

"So the coastguards must not sail there once every few years but every year and every month, even every day during the fishing seasons," he said.

Taiwan's coastguards have had 10 maritime standoffs with their Japanese counterparts in the waters since 2008 after Ma was elected as the president.

"This shows that the government is firm regarding the sovereignty of Diaoyutai," he said, adding that for several hundred years the water area has been a major fishing ground for Taiwanese fishermen.

In the latest incident, in July, coastguard vessels from Taiwan and Japan "bumped into" each other in waters near the disputed island chain as a Taiwanese vessel was escorting activists to the area.

Ma's remarks come as China on Wednesday pledged to take "necessary measures" to defend its territory after Japanese media said Tokyo had agreed to spend 2.05 billion yen ($26 million) for the purchase of the three of the islands from private Japanese landowners.

The islands, also claimed by China and Japan, have sparked a major row between the countries after activists from both sides sailed to the archipelago last month.

Japan arrested 14 activists who sailed to the island from Hong Kong, triggering protests by China and Taiwan, and moved swiftly to deport them.

Days later Japanese activists landed on one of the islands and raised their national flag.

In response Taiwan summoned Japan's representative to protest the trip.

The islands may lie on top of significant oil reserves, and their strategic value is considerable, but according to observers national pride is also a major reason for the acrimony in the dispute.-Interaksyon (September 05, 2012 9:17PM)

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