On Thursday, two ships from the Taiwanese coast guard departed for the surrounding waters of the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. As the rapidly escalating standoff between Japan and China continues, the Taiwanese coast guard has said it is sending the ships to the islands, called Tiaoyutai in Taiwan, in order to offer protection for the nation’s fishermen. It’s not really clear what would possess fishermen of any country to want to go near the diplomatic mess of a territory, but Taiwan’s ships will surely be encountering the two Chinese patrol ships that arrived earlier this week.
Japan, China, and Taiwan all lay claim to the uninhabited islands, however Taiwan has been the least vocal in the dispute over the last few months. While China continues to warn of their taking action against Japan’s purchase of the disputed territory for 2.05 billion yen (approx. $26 million), Taiwan recalled its ambassador to Japan this week as well. The Japan-China tensions are peaking at this point, stirred up by a visit from 14 Hong Kong activists to one of the islands last month. The group was quickly arrested by Japanese authorities due to immigration violations, but they were then deported amid protests from both China and Taiwan.
The group of five islands are located roughly 160 kilometers (99 miles) from Okinawa, Japan’s southern island, and 200 kilometers (124) from Taiwan. While nationalism is seen as the largest driving factor behind the disputing nations, the territory is also located in important shipping lanes. In recent years it has also been believed that there are valuable resources nearby, such as natural gas and rare minerals, in addition to the important fishing waters in the region.[via Channel News Asia]