Taiwan patrol ships sent to waters off Japanese atoll

TAIPEI • Taiwan yesterday sent two patrol ships to waters surrounding a Japanese atoll amid a dispute over the seizure of one of the island's fishing boats there.

The detention of the Tung Sheng Chi 16 near Okinotorishima last week angered Taiwanese officials, who say Tokyo has no authority over the area.

A Taiwanese coast guard ship and another from the Council of Agriculture departed from the southern port of Kaoshiung yesterday.

"Japan has no right to ban our fishing boats from the area," Taiwan's coast guard administration said in a statement. "The government will resolutely defend the rights and freedom of our fishermen in international waters."

Between 100 and 200 Taiwanese boats fish in the waters around Okinotorishima each year.

Japan says it has exclusive rights in the 200 nautical mile area surrounding the uninhabited atoll in the Philippine Sea, but Taiwan rejects this claim.

Taiwan's defence ministry said it also plans to deploy warships to "appropriate waters" but spokesman David Lo declined to elaborate.

The maritime row is straining normally friendly relations between Taipei and Tokyo. It follows a stand-off more than three years ago over a chain of islands in the East China Sea, when coast guard vessels from both sides attacked each other with water cannon.

The islands - known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese - are controlled by Japan but claimed by both China and Taiwan.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2016, with the headline 'Taiwan patrol ships sent to waters off Japanese atoll'. Print Edition | Subscribe