Taiwan calls for restraint in waters around Diaoyutais

02/18/2021 03:35 PM
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The Diaoyutai Islands. Photo courtesy of Kyodo News
The Diaoyutai Islands. Photo courtesy of Kyodo News

Taipei, Feb. 18 (CNA) Taiwan's government on Thursday reasserted its sovereignty over the contested Diaoyutai Islands and called for restraint by all parties as tensions between Japan and China escalate.

"The Diaoyutai Islands are undoubtedly inherent parts of the Republic of China," said Joanne Ou (歐江安), spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), during a regular press briefing.

"Any unilateral actions by other parties will not change the fact that our country has sovereignty over those islands," she added.

The Republic of China is the formal designation of Taiwan.

Ou said Taiwan's government will not back down on issues relating to the Diaoyutai Islands and its resolve to defend the country's sovereignty is "unwavering."

She urged restraint by all parties involved in the Diaoyutai Islands disputes, adding that Taiwan's government will continue to handle the disputes through peaceful means and protect the fishing rights of Taiwanese fishermen.

Ou's statement came after Japanese media recently reported that Tokyo is considering arming its patrols in waters around the islands after armed Chinese coast guard vessels entered the area several times over the past two weeks.

According to the reports, China has sent coast guard ships, some of them equipped with "cannon-like weapons," into the contested waters at least six times since Feb. 1, when Beijing began to enforce its new Coast Guard Law.

The law allows Chinese coast guard ships to use handheld weapons on foreign ships operating illegally in China's waters under certain conditions, increasing fears that tensions in the region could escalate.

The Diaoyutai Islands, called the Senkaku Islands by Japan, are a group of uninhabited sea features claimed by Japan, Taiwan and China.

Meanwhile, MOFA said in a statement that in addition to sending coast guard vessels into Diaoyutai waters, China has also harassed Taiwan by sending military aircraft and vessels into airspace and waters near Taiwan.

According to data provided by MOFA, from Jan. 1 to Feb. 17, Chinese military planes entered Taiwan's southwest air defense identification zone (ADIZ) 40 times, with 97 sorties.

In 2020, 102 incidents of "harassment" by Chinese warplanes and warships were recorded around Taiwan, involving 1,807 sorties. Of those incidents, six involved crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait, MOFA said.

(By Chen Yun-yu and Emerson Lim)

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