June 16, 2008

Taiwan Activists, Coast Guard Boats Sail Around Disputed Island Group 16 June

Text of report in English by Taiwanese Central News Agency website

[By Deborah Kuo, "Activists, Escort Convoy Sail Around Disputed Islands" - CNA headline]

Taipei, June 16 (CNA) - A group of activists, escorted by coast guard vessels, sailed around the disputed island group of Tiaoyutai in the East China Sea Monday morning to highlight Taiwan's claim to the islands, the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) reported Monday.

The group of 12 people sailed from Shenao, Taipei County midnight Sunday and arrived 3: 30 a.m. at a location about 24 nautical miles away from the Tiaoyutais.

The activists, aboard a private sports fishing boat, sailed into an area about 12 nautical miles away from the Tiaoyutais at 4: 55 a.m., under the escort of agile CGA vessels, said CGA Deputy Minister Cheng Chang-hsiung.

The Taiwanese convoy circled around the uninhabited island group before departing around 5:40 a.m., Cheng said.

The boat carrying the activists was escorted by a convoy of nine CGA vessels - four frigates and five patrol boats - to ensure the safety of the group, Cheng said at a news conference held at the CGA headquarters.

At one point, around 5 a.m., Japanese patrol boats, including a 3,000-ton frigate, tried to stop the Taiwanese convoy from going any further, while a Japanese helicopter circled overhead, according to Cheng.

He said a CGA vessel tried to communicate with the Japanese Maritime Safety Agency authorities to tell them that the Taiwan convoy's sail around the disputed island group was aimed only at "protecting the territorial waters of the Republic of China," but the Japanese patrol did not respond.

The Tiaoyutais, located 102 nautical miles to the northeast of Taiwan, have been at the centre of a territorial dispute among Japan, Taiwan and China over the past decades. The waters around the island group have traditionally been a fishing ground for Taiwan fishermen.

The demonstration by the group of activists took place five days after a Japanese patrol vessel rammed into a Taiwan fishing boat, causing the fishing boat to sink off the islands.

Taiwan has recalled its representative to Tokyo to protest the Japanese authorities' claim that the accident resulted from a bungled attempt by the Japanese patrol vessel to chase the Taiwan fishing boat away from Japan's territorial waters and that the Taiwan boat was partly to blame.

Originally published by Central News Agency website, Taipei, in English 0532 16 Jun 08.

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