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Taiwan flotilla leaves for disputed island

Taiwan flotilla leaves for disputed island
Dozens of Taiwanese fishing boats will set sail for disputed East China Sea islands on Monday, organisers said, amid a row over territory controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan.

A flotilla of some 78 fishing boats is scheduled to leave Suao, a port in northeast Ilan county, according to an activist group, which said the numbers of vessels could swell.

‘I’m certain there will be more based at other fishing ports to join us,’ Lin Cheng-an, a spokesman for the Suao Fishermen’s Association, said.

The fishermen aim to highlight Taiwan’s claim over the uninhabited islands – known as Diaoyu in China, Senkaku in Japan – which lie 400 kilometres [250 miles] from the Okinawan capital of Naha and 200 kilometres from Taiwan.

‘Diaoyutai has been our traditional fishing ground for centuries. We pledge to use our lives to protect it, or we’d disgrace our ancestors,’ Chen Chun-sheng, the head of the Suao association, said on the weekend.

The flotilla is expected to arrive on Tuesday and sail inside the 12-nautical-mile territorial zone surrounding the disputed islands, Lin said.

‘It’s our target,’ he said, but declined to say whether the group planned to try to land there.

Taiwan’s coastguards have pledged to send ships alongside the boats to ensure the safety of the fishing vessels.

On Sunday, more than 1,000 slogan-chanting Taiwanese activists and their supporters rallied outside the de facto Japanese embassy in Taipei, calling for a boycott of Japanese goods.

Tensions have mounted after Japan announced earlier this month that it had completed a planned purchase of some of the islands, prompting Taiwan to recall its envoy to Tokyo and triggering mass protests in China.

Tens of thousands of anti-Japanese demonstrators took to the streets in cities across China, with some vandalising Japanese shops and factories, forcing firms to shut down or scale back production. The disputed islands lie on vital shipping lanes and are believed to be located near potentially rich gas fields.


After weeks of tension over the purchase of disputed islands by Japan from a private owner, Beijing and Tokyo today settled for quite diplomacy even as the coast guard ships of both the countries patrolled the waters of the islets avoiding direct confrontation. Japan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai, who arrived here today for a two-day visit, held talks with Chinese officials. Sources here said the talks is being held to work out a way forward for both the countries to reduce the tensions to prevent flourishing USD 345 billion trade between the two countries from getting affected. This is the highest-level contact between the two since tensions spiralled between the two countries after China took strong exception to Japan buying the ‘Senkaku’ islands called as ‘Diaoyu’ isles by Japan from a private owner early this month. Japan argued that it bought the islands to prevent plans by right wing politicians from buying them to begin construction there, while China alleged that it amounted to Tokyo nationalising the islands in violation of decades’ long informal agreement to leave the dispute for future generations to settle. China was gripped by well orchestrated protests before Japanese diplomatic missions for days resulting in shut down of several Japanese businesses in China. China had also put off celebrations to mark 40 years of diplomatic relations. There is however a change after the visit of US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta to both the countries last week as the demonstrations died down overnight and Japanese businesses returned to normal in most part of China. Chinese police also announced arrests of about 24 people who indulged in violence against Japanese businesses. While the talks were on, China said two of its marine surveillance ships continued patrol the Islands in accordance with relevant laws of China, the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said on Monday. Reports from Tokyo also said the Japanese Coast Guard vessels too are conducting similar patrols.


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