Taiwan sends boats to waters around disputed islands.
Dozens of Taiwanese vessels and coastguard ships have entered waters around a disputed island chain also claimed by the world’s second and third largest economies, China and Japan.
“Tens of fishing boats entered the waters. They were accompanied by six Taiwanese coastguard ships,” a spokesman for the Japanese coastguard said on Tuesday.
The arrival of the Taiwanese boats may further escalate tensions in the region over the disputed islands.
“We have made contact with the Taiwan authorities, and told them that they cannot enter our territorial waters,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a press conference in Tokyo on Tuesday.
Media reports say the Taiwanese boats have finished their ‘protest move’ against “Japan’s illegal purchase” of the Islands and will return to a port in northeast Taiwan’s Yilan county at noon on Wednesday.
Japan’s coastguard said on Monday that two Chinese maritime surveillance ships had spent seven hours in sovereign waters off Uotsurijima, the largest in the chain of the contested islands.
The disputed territories, known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan, have been the subject of a long-running row between Tokyo and Beijing.
Tensions heightened between Tokyo and Beijing after Japan signed a deal on September 11 to buy three of the islands from their private Japanese owners in line with plans to nationalize the archipelago.
The uninhabited islands are located near a crucial shipping lane and would give the owner exclusive oil, mineral, and fishing rights in the surrounding waters.
Japan uses water cannons against Taiwanese flotilla
Japan’s coastguard vessels have used water cannons in an effort to push the Taiwanese flotilla out of what Tokyo claims to be its territorial waters near the disputed islands in the East China Sea.
Taiwanese boats escorted by patrol ships have now reportedly left the disputed waters.
At least 40 Taiwanese ships breached Japan’s naval border early on Tuesday, the country’s coastguard said. The flotilla was met by Japanese patrol ships that used water cannons in order to stop the vessels from reaching the largest island in the area, Uotsuri-jima.
Local television broadcast the fierce sea battle between the Japanese ships and Taiwanese patrol vessels that also used water cannons.
The vessels are part of a fleet that departed from Taiwan on Monday promising to claim the Senkaku (Diaoyu) islands which Taipei says is part of their ancestral fishing grounds.
“Fishing rights are more important than sovereignty, but fishing rights also means sovereignty,” activist Chen Chunsheng, who is organizing the flotilla, told AFP.
Earlier on Tuesday three Chinese patrol vessels briefly entered waters which Japan considers its territory and now remain very close to the uninhabited but strategic archipelago.
The latest intrusion complicated the already tense confrontation between Tokyo against Beijing, which also has claims over the islands.
Relations between Japan and China have soared this month after Japan nationalized three of the islands, buying them from a private Japanese landowner. Beijing has protested and China has seen a massive nationalist upsurge. Now Taiwan, which China considers to be a province of its, is also stepping up efforts to claim the territory believed to be rich in energy resources.
Meanwhile, Japanese Vice-Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai is in Beijing for talks with his Chinese counterpart Zhang Zhijun aimed at easing the tension.
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