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Japanese Coast Guard Turns Back Taiwan's Fishing Boats With Water Cannons

TAIPEI TIMES, LIBERTY TIMES (Taiwan), KYODO (Japan), SKYNET.BE (Belgium), REUTERS

Worldcrunch

A fleet of up to 100 Taiwan fishing boats, accompanied by 10 Taiwanese coast guard vessels, sailed into Japanese-controlled waters this morning, according to the Taipei Times. The waters are near the islands being disputed between Japan, which calls them the Senkaku, and China, which calls them the Diaoyu.

The intrusion by the Taiwanese ships came a day after Chinese surveillance vessels entered Japan's territorial waters for the third time since Japan purchased three of the five main islands to nationalize them earlier this month, reports the Japanese Kyodo news agency.

Taiwan, which was occupied from 1895 until 1945 by Japan, also claims sovereignty over the islands. The Taiwanese fishermen say they are merely claiming their traditional rights to fish in the archipelago waters, but some of them, according to Taiwan’s Liberty Times, plan to try to land on the islands.

The fishing boats had banners asserting Taiwan's claim to sovereignty over the islands, says Kyodo.

If this happens, the Taiwanese Coast Guard announced, it will protect the fishermen “like a mother hen guarding its chicks” and is prepared with military divers if necessary, according to the Liberty Times this morning.

Chen Chun-sheng, head of one group of the fishermen, had told the press this weekend, "Diaoyutai has been our traditional fishing ground for centuries. We pledge to use our lives to protect it or we'd disgrace our ancestors."

More than 20 Japanese coast guard ships, forming a line to block the fishing fleet, responded at dawn this morning by bombarding the fishermen with heavy water cannons. The Taiwan coast guard fired back with its own water cannons.

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou announced in a communiqué that he "supports the patriotic action by the fishermen and congratulates the coast guard" and "exhorts Japan to respect the rights of our fishermen in their ancestral fishing zone and... hopes that all parties concerned will resolve their differences peacefully."

The Japanese government urged Taiwan "not to enter territorial waters" near the islands in the East China Sea, through entities such as an interchange association and representative office of Taiwan, both in Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said.

Japan and Taiwan have no official diplomatic relations according to Kyodo. Reuters reports Japan had also lodged a complaint with China yesterday, after a similar intrusion by Chinese boats.

Taiwan has friendly ties with Japan, but the two sides have long squabbled over fishing rights in the area. China and Taiwan both argue they have inherited China's historic sovereignty over the islands, says Reuters.

While some argue over history and sovereignty, others see national petulance from all sides.

Grumpy Japanese government tells kids to get off its damn lawn, uses hose: uk.reuters.com/article/2012/0…

— Matt Alt (@Matt_Alt) September 25, 2012

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