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September 25, 2017

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Taiwanese vessel returns following standoff with Japan near Tiaoyutais

A Taiwanese fishing boat, with some activists aboard, returned to Taiwan yesterday after a 30-minute standoff with Japanese coast guard ships in disputed Tiaoyutai waters, the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) said yesterday.

The ship "Chuan Chia Fu" (全家福號) left a New Taipei City harbor in Northeastern Taiwan late Tuesday and traveled to waters near the disputed Tiaoyutais at around 8 a.m. yesterday under the escort of five CGA patrol vessels, a CGA official said yesterday in a news briefing.

The vessel with three "protect Tiaoyutai" activists and six crew members were intercepted by Japanese coast guard vessels at some 1.6 nautical miles off the disputed island as the Taiwanese ship moved toward the island group that is claimed by both Taiwan and Japan, CGA Deputy Director-General Wang Chung-yi (王崇儀) said.

Around 8:30 a.m., three Japanese vessels made attempts to send coast guardsmen to board the Taiwanese ship. However, their attempts were blocked by Taiwanese Coast Guard patrol vessels, Wang said.

"Chuan Chia Fu" ended its operations and set off for Taiwan proper under the escort of the CGA fleet around 9 a.m., he added.

Wang said the CGA will continue to do its best to protect the rights of Taiwanese fishing vessels sailing around the disputed island group and uphold Taiwan's sovereignty claim in the region.

Asked to comment, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday reiterated Taiwan's sovereignty over the Tiaoyutais.

Vessels Collided: Japanese coast guard

Coast guard vessels from Taiwan and Japan "bumped into" each other in waters near the disputed island chain, as the Taiwanese vessel was escorting activists to the area, Japan's coast guard said.

One of the four Taiwanese patrol ships carried a Japanese-language banner reading: "This is territory of the Republic of China," a Japanese coast guard official said.

The five Taiwanese vessels entered waters Japan claims as its territory shortly after 7 a.m. (2200 GMT) and left the area by noon Wednesday, the official said.

"The boat, moving in the same direction as one of the Japanese patrol ships, bumped into it and scratched the paint," the official said. "There were no injuries in the incident."

MOFA spokesman Steve Hsia confirmed that a Taiwanese boat was operating near the Tiaoyutais, which he described as an "inherent" part of Taiwan.

Following the incident, the Japan Interchange Association in Taipei, a quasi-official organization established to handle bilateral affairs in the absence of formal bilateral diplomatic ties, filed the protest with Taiwan that was rejected by the Foreign Ministry.

"Taiwan has refused to accept a protest lodged by Japan over the incident," he noted.

The Tiaoyutais are known as the Diaoyutai Islands in China and the Senkaku Islands in Japan. Each nation claims sovereignty over the island group.

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