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June 23, 2017

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Local, Japan vessels clash off Diaoyutais

Taiwan's Coast Guard met the Japan Coast Guard yesterday morning near the Diaoyutai Islands, in a brief skirmish that resulted in no casualties.

Escorted by the Taiwan Coast Guard Administration (CGA, 海巡署), 75 R.O.C. fishing boats entered waters near the contested Diaoyutais early Tuesday to assert Taiwan's sovereignty.

Taiwan's CGA cutters weathered rough sea conditions to get as close as 2.1 nautical miles from the islands. R.O.C. fishing vessels proceeded with the cutters, breaking through a line of Japan Coast Guard vessels that issued warnings through loudspeakers.

At 8:30 p.m., a Taiwanese fishing boat called Yong-feng No. 106 (永豐106 號) made it 4.5 nautical miles from the Diaoyutais. At this point, Japan Coast Guard cutters closed in and sprayed Yong-feng No. 106 and nearby vessels with water cannons to deter their progress. Japanese cutters also tried to block progress by dropping small boats into the waters and pushing them into the R.O.C. fleet.

R.O.C. cutters led by the De-shing (德星艦) blocked the small boats and fired water cannons at the Japan Coast Guard cutters. Via loudspeaker, R.O.C. crew members declared sovereignty over the Diaoyutais and demanded that the Japan Coast Guard end its interference with Taiwan fishermen's operations.

Meanwhile, Taiwanese fishing boats pressed on, reaching within 3 nautical miles of the Diaoyutais at 8:49 a.m.

Lin Jih-cheng (林日成), commander of an organizing committee on safeguarding fishing rights, called on them to return around 9 a.m. Within 20 minutes, the fishing boats were homeward bound toward Yilan County's Su-ao Harbor (蘇澳港) under CGA escort.

'Closer than expected'

R.O.C. cutters and fishing boats failed to circle the contested island chain as planned, but were able to sail much closer to the islands than expected, said Lin yesterday.

The fleet has accomplished its mission of declaring sovereignty over the Diaoyutais, he added.

CGA Deputy Director-General Wang Chung-yi (王崇儀) said that R.O.C. cutters did not allow Japanese ships to board the Taiwanese fishing boats and did not allow Japanese officers to take Taiwanese fishermen into custody, which were also the aims of the mission. Wang said that Japan had mobilized 21 ships.

The CGA had not advanced further due to rough and unpredictable sea conditions, which included waves greater than 4 meters, he said.

Wang said that there were five mainland Chinese patrol ships near the island chain, positioned outside a 12-nautical-mile radius.

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