Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Bayrou decides to march with Macron

Read more

THE DEBATE

France's Topsy-Turvy Election: Uncertain outcome as insurgents blow away old guard (part 1)

Read more

THE DEBATE

France's Topsy-Turvy Election: Uncertain outcome as insurgents blow away old guard (part 2)

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Amnesty chief urges France to 'stay true to its values'

Read more

ENCORE!

Film show: 'Certain Women', 'Rock’n Roll' and 'A Wedding'

Read more

FOCUS

#BringBackOurInternet: English-speaking Cameroon hit by digital blackout

Read more

MIDDLE EAST MATTERS

Preaching coexistence: Avant-garde mosque opens in Lebanon's Druze heartland

Read more

THE OBSERVERS

Prison guards turn guns on prisoners in Chile, and thousands of migrants stuck in smoky warehouses in Serbia

Read more

FACE-OFF

French presidential race: Le Pen makes groundbreaking visit to Lebanon

Read more

Asia-pacific

Taiwanese boats challenge Japan in island dispute

Latest update : 2012-09-25

Sixty Taiwanese vessels faced Japanese water cannons as they entered waters near a disputed island chain claimed by China, Japan and Taiwan early Tuesday. Japan purchased the islands from a private owner last week, sparking protests in China.

A week after Japan’s purchase of the disputed Senkaku-Diaoyu archipelago from a private landowner sparked protests across China, a third regional player has entered the fray.

Sixty Taiwanese coast guard and fishing boats, accompanied by patrol ships Taipei said were carrying fully armed personnel, faced Japanese water cannons early Tuesday as they entered the waters surrounding the islands, which are claimed by China, Japan and Taiwan.

This breach of what Japan considers its sovereign territory adds fuel to the debate that has already been raging between Japan and China in recent weeks over ownership of the islands. Several days of sometimes violent protests have erupted in cities across China, with Japanese firms targeted by rioters.

But Taipei also lays claim to the uninhabited islands, and is seemingly willing to back its convictions with action. Situated in the East China Sea, some 200 kilometres northeast of Taiwan and 400 kilometres west of Okinawa, Taiwan claims that it has ancestral fishing rights to the island chain.

“Taipei surely wants to show that Beijing is not the only power prepared to defend China’s honour on the subject of the islands,” says Valérie Niquet, a researcher at the Asia programme of the Foundation for Strategic Research, a French think tank. “Taiwan is taking a turn to mark its territory.”

“Taipei has always presented itself as the legitimate ruler of China,” she told FRANCE 24. “It does not recognise Beijing’s authority. So it is natural that Taiwan would consider itself as the legal ruler of the islands, which it has claimed as its own since 1971.”

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a press conference Tuesday that Japanese authorities contacted the vessels and told them to leave.

"We have made contact with the Taiwanese authorities, and told them that they cannot enter our territorial waters," he said.

A spokesman for Taiwan's coastguard confirmed that nearly 60 boats sailed close to the islands, some coming within three nautical miles – well inside the 12-nautical-mile exclusion zone.

Japan's coastguard said all vessels left the area a few hours later.

Ownership of the islands has become an important tenet of national identity for all three claimants – and the possible presence of energy reserves in the nearby seabed adds to their allure.

Japan administers the uninhabited, but strategically well-positioned archipelago under the name Senkaku. Beijing says it has owned the islands for centuries and calls them the Diaoyu islands.

Fujimura said Japan was handling Tuesday's situation as delicately as it could.

"All in all, we must continue to take utmost caution for policing of the areas surrounding the Senkaku islands. Agencies concerned must continue to closely coordinate their actions," he said.

"Japan's position is that, in light of good Japan-Taiwan relations, we must solve the issue peacefully. We wish to respond calmly."

(FRANCE 24 with wires)
 

Date created : 2012-09-25

  • DIPLOMACY

    China protests continue over island dispute with Japan

    Read more

  • JAPAN - CHINA

    Fresh anti-Japan protests erupt in China

    Read more

  • JAPAN - CHINA

    Japanese firms shut plants in China as territorial row escalates

    Read more

COMMENT(S)