Japanese and Taiwanese Patrol Boats Clash Over Islands
COASTGUARD vessels from Japan and Taiwan duelled with water cannon today after dozens of Taiwanese boats escorted by patrol ships sailed into waters around Tokyo-controlled islands.
Japanese coastguard ships sprayed water at the fishing vessels, footage on national broadcaster NHK showed, with the Taiwanese patrol boats retaliating by directing their own high-pressure hoses at the Japanese ships.
The large-scale breach of what Japan considers sovereign territory - one of the biggest since WWII - is the latest escalation in a row over ownership of the islands that pits Tokyo against Beijing and Taipei.
The intrusion complicates the already volatile territorial dispute with China. Taiwan has said that officers aboard some of the patrol ships sent to the area are fully-armed elite coastguard personnel.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a press conference that by 9am local time, eight Taiwanese coastguard and 40 fishing boats were in Japanese waters.
“We have made contact with the Taiwan authorities, and told them that they cannot enter our territorial waters,” he said.
A spokesman for Taiwan’s coastguard confirmed that nearly 60 boats got close to the islands, some coming within three nautical miles - well inside the 12-nautical-mile territorial exclusion zone.
Japan’s coastguard said all vessels left territorial waters a few hours later.
The boats are part of a fleet that left Taiwan yesterday, vowing to stake their claim to islands where they say they have ancestral fishing rights.
More than 60 fishing boats flying Taiwan flags yesterday left Suao, a port in northeast Taiwan, with 300 fishermen and 60 reporters on board.