Japan, Taiwan Boats Use Water Cannons Near Disputed Islands

Posted September 25th, 2012 at 1:25 am (UTC-5)
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Japanese and Taiwanese coast guard vessels exchanged water cannon blasts Tuesday in the East China Sea, further complicating a territorial dispute that has also upset Japan-China relations.

The tussle, which was shown on Japanese television, came as at least eight Taiwanese patrol ships escorted dozens of fishing boats near disputed islands, known in Japan as Senkaku and in China as Diaoyu.

Taiwan's Coast Guard says the boats came within six kilimeters of the Japanese-controlled islands. Japanese officials said the Taiwanese boats have since left the disputed waters. Tokyo has lodged a protest with Taiwan because of the incursion.

It is the first time that Taiwan, which also claims the islands, has sent ships to the disputed waters since Japan purchased them this month from a private Japanese landowner, a move that sparked a diplomatic crisis with China.

Meanwhile, Chinese and Japanese officials held talks on the worsening dispute Tuesday. At the request of Tokyo, Vice Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai met with his Chinese counterpart Zhang Zhijun in Beijing.

China-Japan relations deteriorated sharply after Japan's purchase 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.