Taiwan complains to Japan over fishing boat seizure

Tokyo's claim to disputed zone in Philippine Sea rejected

TAIPEI • Taiwan yesterday summoned Japan's representative to protest against its seizure of one of the island's fishing boats in an area where Tokyo claims exclusive rights.

The 50-ton Taiwanese boat was chased for hours by a Japanese vessel and finally seized earlier this week some 150 nautical miles from Okinotorishima, an atoll administered by Japan. The seizure of the Tung Sheng Chi 16 prompted a protest from Taipei, which said Japan had no authority in the area and demanded the release of the vessel and 10 crew members.

They were later freed, but tensions remain as the release came only after the vessel's owner paid a "lawsuit deposit" of six million yen (S$75,000) as demanded by the Japanese authorities, Taiwan's foreign ministry said in a statement.

Taiwan's Foreign Minister David Lin expressed the island's displeasure to Mr Mikio Numata, who handles relations with Taipei in the absence of official diplomatic ties.

"We've told them we've never recognised the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around Okinotorishima and they have no right to seize the fishing boat," he told reporters.

Okinotorishima is an uninhabited atoll in the Philippine Sea which is mostly submerged at low tide.

The Japanese EEZ claim has also been rejected by China and South Korea, although neither country has made its own claim.

Taiwan's outgoing Premier Simon Chang issued a stern warning to Japan as Taipei pledged to protect its fishing boats and said it would send patrol vessels to the area on Monday.

"Don't ever think we'll be weak (on this issue). Don't test our determination," he told reporters.

The remarks come more than three years after coastguard vessels from Taiwan and Japan converged and duelled with water cannon in a stand-off over a chain of islands in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese. The islands are controlled by Japan but are claimed by China and Taiwan.

But later that year, Japan and Taiwan forged an agreement under which Taiwanese trawlers are permitted to fish in waters off the East China Sea island chain.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2016, with the headline 'Taiwan complains to Japan over fishing boat seizure'. Print Edition | Subscribe