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June 29, 2017

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Taiwan urges restraint from China, Japan over islands

TAIPEI -- Taiwan on Tuesday repeated its call for parties involved in the dispute over the Diaoyutai Islands to show restraint, after Chinese surveillance ships and Japanese coast guard boats and activists reportedly sailed to waters near the islands.

"We hope all sides will exercise restraint" and not engage in actions that will raise tensions in the region, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anna Kao said.

Kao also reiterated Taiwan's sovereignty over the Diaoyutais, known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China.

Kao's remarks came amid a possible new showdown over the islands in the East China Sea.

Reports said a group of Chinese surveillance ships entered the 12-mile nautical zone of the Diaoyutais yesterday morning and more than 80 Japanese activists were sailing to waters near the disputed islands the same day.

The number of Chinese ships around the uninhabited islands was said to be the largest since tensions increased over the dispute last year.

The Japanese activists, escorted by Japanese coast guard ships, said they were visiting the area to conduct a fisheries study, the reports said.

Kao urged all sides in the dispute to show restraint and respond to the East China Sea Peace Initiative proposed by President Ma Ying-jeou last August, which calls for all sides to shelve differences and jointly explore resources.

Taiwan will continue to deal with the dispute under the principle of safeguarding sovereignty, seeking peace and reciprocity and jointly developing resources, she added.

The Diaoyutais, located some 100 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan, have been under Japan's administrative control since 1972 but are also claimed by Taiwan and China.

China acknowledges Taiwan's jurisdiction over the islands, but claims them because it also claims sovereignty over self-governed Taiwan.

Taiwan and Japan took a step toward easing tensions in the region when they signed a historical fishing pact on April 10 after holding on-and-off negotiations on the issue for nearly 17 years.

The pact gives Taiwanese fishermen an additional 4,530 square kilometers in which they can operate free of harassment from Japanese authorities, the Fisheries Agency said.

Taiwan saw the signing of the pact as a positive response by Japan to Ma's peace initiative.

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