September 26, 2012 in Nation/World

Islands dispute triggers talks, water cannon blasts

Louise Watt Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Fishing boats flying Taiwanese national flags set out from the Suao harbor, northeastern Taiwan, to disputed islands in the East China Sea on Monday.
(Full-size photo)

BEIJING – Japanese and Taiwanese ships shot water cannons at each other Tuesday in the latest confrontation over tiny islands in the East China Sea, as Japan met with another rival, China, in an effort to tamp down tensions.

About 40 Taiwanese fishing boats and 12 patrol boats entered waters near the islands on Tuesday morning, briefly triggering an exchange of water cannon fire with Japanese coast guard ships. Coast guard officials said the Taiwanese vessels had ignored warnings to get out of their territory, and the Taiwanese ships pulled back after being fired upon.

It was Taiwan’s first foray into the waters around the uninhabited islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, since the Japanese government purchased some of them from private owners two weeks ago. China, Japan and Taiwan all claim the islands, but they are administered by Tokyo.

The purchase has sparked sometimes violent protests in China and informal boycotts of Japanese products. Many Chinese have canceled vacations to Japan over the dispute. Japanese airline JAL says it plans to cut six flights a day from Japan to Beijing and Shanghai from Oct. 10 to Oct. 27 after the canceling of 15,500 seat reservations.

China has also dispatched government marine monitoring vessels to patrol around the islands.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun and Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai, flanked by their aides, held a meeting on the dispute Tuesday at China’s Foreign Ministry.

After the four-hour meeting, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said both sides exchanged views “frankly and deeply” and agreed to continue discussions. He reiterated that “China will never tolerate Japan’s unilateral acts which violate China’s territorial sovereignty.”

Deputy press secretary for Japan’s Foreign Ministry, Naoko Saiki, said the two sides agreed to continue contacts but had not scheduled another meeting.

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