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Japan chases off ROC fishing boat near Diaoyutais

TAIPEI -- Japanese fishery patrol vessels fired paintballs at a Taiwanese fishing boat and chased it away from an area near the disputed Diaoyutai Islands, where it allegedly entered Japan's waters, Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration (CGA) said Thursday.

The boat returned to Taiwan Thursday splattered with paintballs but the skipper and five crew members were unhurt, according to the CGA.

The CGA said it was notified at 7 p.m. Wednesday that the fishing boat, registered in the central city of Taichung as Chuan Chi Ching No. 326, had gone eight nautical miles beyond a law enforcement line set by the Taiwan government, southwest of the disputed Diaoyutai Islands.

A Taiwanese coast guard vessel went to the rescue of the Taiw anese fishing boat, which had been fleeing from a Japanese Fisheries Agency vessel for about an hour, the CGA said.

After the Taiwanese coast guard vessel arrived on the scene, more Japanese government vessels joined the chase, the CGA said.

The Japanese patrol officers said they had evidence that the fishing boat had entered Japan's waters in breach of the law and they asked to board the boat to inspect it but the Taiwanese coast guard officers rejected the request, the CGA said.

The Japanese patrol vessels continued to follow the fishing boat for about 30 nautical miles — even though it was being escorted back to Taiwan by the coast guard — until it was 45 nautical miles off Suao Harbor in northeastern Taiwan, according to the CGA.

The coast guard in Suao is investigating the incident.

In 2003, Taiwan's government unilaterally set a “temporary enforcement line” in an area of the East China Sea within which Taiwan's coast guard vessels can protect the country's fishing boats.

The line runs through overlapping exclusive economic zones of Taiwan and Japan near the Diaoyutai Islands, which are claimed by Taiwan, Japan and China.

Taiwan's coast guard boats routinely patrol the area within the line to protect local fishing boats, some of which have been chased off or detained and fined by Japanese patrols, the CGA said.

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A Taiwanese fishing vessel sails back toward its homeport in Su-ao (蘇澳), Yilan, yesterday. Fishermen of the vessel Chuan Ji Ching 326 (全吉慶326號) stated that Japanese coast guard ships fell upon them on Wednesday evening, accusing them of fishing in Japanese waters and attacking them with paintball guns. (CNA)

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