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President reasserts claim to Tiaoyutais, seeks peaceful solution

ROC Central News Agency

2008-06-17 17:51:48

    Taipei, June 17 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou reasserted Taiwan's sovereignty claim over the disputed Tiaoyutai Islands Tuesday in his first public statement since a diplomatic row erupted with Japan after a Taiwanese recreational fishing boat collided with a Japanese patrol vessel off the disputed island chain last week.

    The Taiwanese captain claimed that his craft sank after being deliberately rammed by a Japanese coast guard patrol vessel near the islets in the East China Sea, while Japan contended that both the Taiwanese and Japanese captains were responsible for the collision.

    Speaking in an informal meeting with local journalists marking his first month in office, Ma also said he wants to resolve the current row with Japan "peacefully".

    Ma actively participated in a "protect Tiaoyutais" campaign in the 1970s after the United States turned over control of the island chain to Japan along with the Okinawa islands in 1972. "My attitude toward the sovereignty issue has never changed," he said.

    Stressing that the Tiaoyutais are the Republic of China's territory and a part of Taiwan, Ma said the island chain is now under the jurisdication of Yilan county's Toucheng township.

    On the current spat with Japan, Ma said all international disputes should be resolved through peaceful means. "This is a fundamental principle in international engagements and enshrined in the U.N. charter, " said Ma.

    Taiwan has recalled its representative to Japan over the sinking of the "Lienho " sport fishing boat. It has demanded Japan make an apology for the incident and offer damages to the boat owner, Ho Hung-yi, who was detained by Japanese coast guard authorities before being released last Friday.

    The uninhabited island group, known as Senkaku Islands in Japan, is located some 100 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan. Japan administers the islands, which are also claimed by Taiwan and China. Its surrounding waters have been a traditional fishing ground for Taiwanese fishermen.

(By Sofia Wu)

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