Taipei, Sept. 18 (CNA) The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) denied Tuesday that it had been informed of plans by some fishermen to sail to the disputed Diaoyutai Islands to bolster Taiwan's claim to sovereignty over the island chain, but said it will protect Taiwanese fishermen who travel to the area.
The administration's remarks came in the wake of media reports that fishermen in Yilan County were planning to sail to the islands Sept. 22 to illustrate Taiwan's territorial claim over the islands, which lie about 100 nautical miles northeast of the country. According to the media reports, the CGA said it will dispatch patrol vessels to protect them.
The CGA said it will continue its regular missions to protect Taiwanese fishermen operating in waters near the islands.
Meanwhile, responding to media reports that some 1,000 China-registered fishing boats were to set sail for the islands Tuesday to illustrate China's claim to the disputed chain, the administration said that now that a Chinese summer fishing moratorium has been lifted, it is highly unlikely that so many Chinese fishing boats will converge on the region at once.
It said some of the boats will probably just be sailing to other fishing grounds in the surrounding area.
Suao Fishermen's Association Director Lin Yueh-ying noted that the disputed region is rich in natural resources and said that if fishermen voluntarily sail to the region to protest, the association will definitely lend assistance.
Meanwhile, Yilan County Councilor Lin Chi-shan of the ruling Kuomintang said the Taiwanese fishermen planning to sail to the Diaoyutais Sept. 22 will be traveling aboard some 60 fishing boats, and asked for NT$5 million (US$170,160) from the county government in fuel subsidies. As far as the Republic of China government is concerned, the islands are under the administration of the northeastern Taiwan county.
According to the councilor, the county government will be failing to support Taiwan's position on the Diaoyutais issue if it refuses to subsidize the fishermen.
Yilan Magistrate Lin Tsung-hsien, however, declined the subsidy demand, saying that the focus should instead be on laying the groundwork for the next round of fishing rights talks between Taiwan and Japan.
Japan recently purchased three of the disputed islands from their private owners, prompting large-scale violent protests against Japan in China. The two countries, along with Taiwan, claim sovereignty over the islands.
(By Worthy Shen, Liu Chien-pang and Jamie Wang)