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December 2, 2020

Japan, Taiwan trade water cannon fire near disputed islands

Japanese and Taiwanese coast guard vessels exchanged water cannon blasts Tuesday in the East China Sea, further complicating a tense territorial dispute that has also upset Japan-China relations, the Voice of America reports.The tussle, which was shown on Japanese television, came as at least eight Taiwanese patrol ships escorted dozens of fishing boats near disputed islands claimed by all three sides.Japanese officials said the Taiwanese boats left the disputed waters about an hour later. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura says Tokyo has lodged a protest with Taiwan because of the incursion. “We have once again filed protests to Taiwan. In terms of security around the Senkaku islands, we intend to stay on full guard and have all related departments gathering information to deal with any and all situations that may arise,” said Fujimura. Taiwanese leader Ma Ying-jeou issued a statement in support of what he called the “patriotic actions” of the fishermen and the coast guard. It is the first time that Taiwan has sent ships to the disputed waters since Japan said it purchased them this month from a private Japanese landowner, sparking anger in both Taiwan and China. Chinese and Japanese officials held talks Tuesday aimed at lessening tensions surrounding the dispute. At the request of Tokyo, Vice Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai met with his Chinese counterpart Zhang Zhijun in Beijing. China’s foreign ministry says Zhang pressed Japan to take what it called “concrete steps” to “correct mistakes” it has made regarding the islands. China-Japan relations deteriorated sharply after Japan’s nationalization of the islands – a move that many saw as an attempt to keep them from being developed by the outspoken nationalist governor of Tokyo. Since then, China has sent numerous patrol ships, surveillance vessels and fishing boats to press its claim to the islands, which are near rich fishing grounds and potential oil deposits.  The islands are known as Senkaku in Japan, Diaoyu in China, and Tiaoyutai in Taiwan.Michael Cucek, a research associate at the MIT Center for International Studies in Tokyo says that Tuesday’s developments mean the islands dispute is becoming more dangerous and unpredictable.“It’s very hard to see how China can back down from the rhetoric it has been using and how the intrusions, first by boats from Hong Kong and now from these boats from Taiwan, into the territorial water areas around the Senkaku Islands will keep China from taking these as pretexts for protecting their fellow Chinese and upping their rhetoric and upping the level of confrontation,” he said.

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