Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Sea Dispute Pits Japan against Boats from Taiwan ; off Disputed Islands, Coast Guard Blasts Water at Array of Fishing Vessels

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Sea Dispute Pits Japan against Boats from Taiwan ; off Disputed Islands, Coast Guard Blasts Water at Array of Fishing Vessels

Article excerpt

The top Japanese government spokesman said that Tokyo had lodged a protest with Taiwan over the intrusion into waters off a set of islands claimed by Japan, mainland China and Taiwan.

The Japanese Coast Guard used water cannons Tuesday to disperse fishing boats from Taiwan in waters claimed by Tokyo, widening a territorial spat that has already pitted Japan against mainland China and threatened vital trade relations in the region.

The top Japanese government spokesman, Osamu Fujimura, said that Tokyo had lodged a protest with the government of Taiwan over the intrusion into waters off a set of islands claimed by Japan, mainland China and Taiwan.

The protest by Tokyo came just a day after a similar open-sea confrontation with mainland fishing vessels off the islands, which the Japanese call the Senkaku and the Chinese call the Diaoyu.

Though the islands are uninhabited, they lie near coveted fishing grounds and potentially large gas reserves, and their status touches on historical grievances in East Asia dating from Japan's militaristic behavior during and before World War II.

Taiwan generally maintains friendly relations with Japan, but activists there, as in mainland China and Hong Kong, have made their voices heard in the brewing dispute over the islands.

The Japanese public broadcaster, NHK, aired footage that showed a Japanese Coast Guard ship taking aim and blasting water at one of the fishing boats from Taiwan. Another vessel from Taiwan attempted to spray water back.

The coast guard said that more than 40 fishing boats and eight patrol boats from Taiwan had briefly approached the disputed isles. The boats had since left the waters, the coast guard said.

Tensions between Japan and mainland China erupted earlier this year when the governor of Tokyo, a well-known nationalist, angered Chinese activists by announcing that he wanted to buy three of the disputed islands from their owner, a Japanese citizen. …

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