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President reiterates peaceful resolution of Diaoyutais row

ROC Central News Agency

2012/09/26 19:48:28

Taipei, Sept. 26 (CNA) The territorial row over the Diaoyutai Islands must be resolved peacefully on the premise that all parties concerned acknowledge the existence of the dispute, President Ma Ying-jeou said Wednesday in the wake of a Taiwanese protest over the islands.

If this does not happen, any action that partially changes the status quo of the island chain claimed by Taiwan, China and Japan will only make the spat more complicated, Ma said during a speech to a group of officers in the Combined Logistics Command.

Seventy five Taiwanese fishing boats and 12 Coast Guard Administration (CGA) vessels had a standoff and an exchange of water cannon fire with Japanese Coast Guard vessels when the Taiwanese arrived in waters as close as three nautical miles from the island group in the East China Sea the previous day. The Diaoyutais have been controlled by Japan since 1972.

The fishermen sailed about 100 nautical miles from Yilan County to assert their fishing rights for waters surrounding the Diaoyutais and Taiwan's sovereignty over them after the Japanese government purchased the islands from private ownership earlier this year.

Twelve CGA ships had a standoff with their Japanese counterparts at one point while protecting the group of Taiwanese fishermen, including 292 who departed from Nanfangao port, Yilan County.

During the standoff, the two sides used water cannons on each other. During the altercation, Japan mobilized 21 vessels, the largest of which was 6,000 tons, according to the CGA.

The most important thing is to "declare to the world that the Diaoyutai Islands are the territory of the Republic of China," Ma said. The island group belongs to Taiwan rather than Japan, he stated.

"This is part of our territory that has been misappropriated by Japan for 117 years and has never been returned to us," the president added.

Therefore, Taiwan must resort to these protest measures based on what he described as "three noes" -- no provocation, no conflict and no avoidance -- to demonstrate its sovereignty over the Diaoyutais, Ma noted.

However, the government still reiterates that the issue must be resolved through peaceful means. Ma added that his East China Sea peace initiative was proposed in hope of achieving that goal.

Meanwhile that same day, the CGA dismissed a media report that Taiwan's national security authorities had negotiated beforehand with Japan and China, asking Japan not to be too provocative to the Taiwanese boats and for China not to send ships to participate.

The negotiation was to "ensure that everything followed the script," an unnamed senior official was quoted as saying by the China Times.

But Li Mao-jung, deputy director of the CGA's Maritime Patrol Directorate-General, who led the CGA flotilla that escorted the protest, said it was impossible to simulate the confrontation, which included several dangerous actions such as the firing of water cannons and the release of smoke.

CGA Deputy Minister Cheng Chang-hsiung said the CGA did inform the Japanese authorities of the fishermen's protest in advance and asked them not to interfere or judge the situation wrongly. They were told that "we will have countermeasures to any action they take," Cheng noted.

Cheng also said the CGA now keeps at least one large vessel in the waters around the Diaoyutais to protect any Taiwanese fishing boats there.

In the meantime, Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan said the ministry will continue working to establish a national maritime park that will include three islets northeast of Taiwan, as part of efforts to strengthen the country's claim over the Diaoyutais, which lie about 140 km from Pengjia, one of the islets. The other two islets are Mienhua and Huaping islets.

(By Kelvin Huang, Angela Tsai and Kendra Lin)
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