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September 26, 2017

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Ministry monitoring military vessels near Diaoyutais

TAIPEI--Taiwan is keeping a close eye on military vessels passing through waters near the Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea, a defense official said yesterday, a day after Chinese vessels were seen moving toward the islands.

"We are on top of the situation," Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu told the local media before attending a hearing at the Legislature's Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.

Seven Chinese military vessels were reportedly spotted moving toward the disputed Diaoyutais on Tuesday, and the development was a focus of the hearing.

Fielding questions from lawmakers, Kao reiterated that the military has been monitoring the waters near the archipelago and that surveillance of the Diaoyutais has been strengthened amid escalating tensions in the region.

The ministry had a clear picture of the movements of the Chinese military vessels over the past few days, Kao said, adding that thethe fleet sailed no closer than about 40 nautical miles away from the Diaoyutais.

Given the recent developments in the region, the military will remain alert and beef up its combat readiness, Kao added.

Asked about whether his ministry will protest China's military vessels sailing in waters near Taiwan, Kao said, "we will lodge a protest if they enter our territory."

Tension over the Diaoyutais flared up after Japan moved to nationalize and strengthen its sovereignty claim over the island chain by buying three of the islets from their private owner on Sept. 11, spurring protests in Taiwan and China.

Despite the recent tensions between China and Japan, Kao told lawmakers that the current situation was unlikely to develop into a military conflict.

Meanwhile, Kao said the military has been closely monitoring the waters near the archipelago and is coordinating its efforts with the Coast Guard Administration (CGA).

He pledged that the ministry will work with the CGA to safeguard the rights of Taiwanese fishermen to operate in waters near the Diaoyutais.

The uninhabited Diaoyutai Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China, lie about 100 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan. They have been under Japan's control since 1972, but are also claimed by Taiwan and China.

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