Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2012-09-26 02:56 PM
His statement came after a flotilla of almost 100 Taiwanese fishing trawlers and coast guard vessels returned to Ilan County after coming to within 3 nautical miles of the disputed islands. Japan controls the uninhabited rocks, but China and Taiwan both lay claim to them. The current tension started when Japan announced it was nationalizing several of the islands.
“Each side needed to acknowledge that there was a dispute in the first place and to prepare to put that dispute aside,” Ma said in an address to a military lunch Wednesday. “Changing the situation unilaterally will only make the dispute more difficult to solve.”
The president reiterated his government’s stance that the sovereignty over the islands belonged to Taiwan but that the country would seek a peaceful resolution and propose joint development of the area.
Ma lauded the protest by the fishermen, saying their action had been unprecedented, both for the size of their fleet and for their proximity to the islands, 2.1 nautical miles or less than 4 km.
The protest had shown to the whole world that the Tiaoyutai belonged to Taiwan and did not form part of Japan’s territory, he said. The islands have been occupied by Japan for 117 years and have still not been returned to Taiwan, the president said.
Ma also praised the Coast Guard Administration for accompanying the flotilla, but said the action could not have been a success without the fishermen standing together to defend their rights. The government would help them to continue fishing in the area like they had done for over a century, he said.
Plans by the 75 Taiwanese fishing vessels and 12 CGA ships to cruise around the islands did not succeed because of obstruction by 34 Japanese coast guard frigates, reports said. The CGA said its Japanese counterpart harassed the Taiwanese flotilla by firing water cannons and creating high waves. The CGA ships used similar tactics to strike back and prevented Japanese crews from boarding the fishing trawlers, according to a spokesman Wednesday.
The ships left the Ilan County port of Nanfang’ao on Monday to arrive near the Tiaoyutai early Tuesday morning. After staying around for hours, they decided to turn back. The fleet arrived back to a welcome by fireworks in the early hours of Wednesday, reports said.
On Tuesday, the Japanese official in charge of relations with Taiwan, Tadashi Imai, paid a short visit to Taipei during which he spent two hours talking to Foreign Minister Timothy Yang.
The minister, who is leaving his post Thursday to take office as secretary-general of the Presidential Office, reportedly refused to accept a strong a protest by Imai against the actions of the Taiwanese fishermen.
Yang emphasized Taiwan’s sovereignty over the islands, its determination to defend fishing rights and its willingness to find a peaceful solution to the dispute.