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Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Diaokakutai Islands: Here we go again

Once again, the ire of Chinese nationalists has been raised, this time over the recent arrest of a Chinese ship captain after he ignored orders to leave a disputed area near the Senkaku Islands 尖閣諸島 and collided with a couple of Japan Coast Guard 海上保安庁 vessels. The headline from this Kyōdō News 共同通信社 article in today's Japan Times ジャパンタイムズ bares it all:

"Activists supporting Chinese sovereignty over the disputed Senkaku Islands and surrounding waters said Saturday that protesters in China will set out Sunday from Xiamen on a voyage to the area and that Taiwan-based protesters will also set out within days.

Huang Hsi-lin, chief executive of the Taiwan-based Chinese Tiaoyut'ai Defense Association, told reporters at a conference in Chunghe 中和, T'aipei County 台北縣, that a number of fishing vessels are scheduled to set out from Xiamen and that, sea conditions permitting, Taiwanese activists will set out as early as Sunday. The disputed islands are known as the Senkaku in Japan, the Diaoyu in China and the Tiaoyutai in Taiwan. Details of the Taiwan-based protest, such as ports of departure and number of boats and on-board activists, are being withheld to avoid intervention by the authorities, whom activists complain have cracked down on their activities in recent years. Huang said protesters will fish near the islands and attempt to disembark with a statue of Matsu 媽祖, the patron goddess of fishermen. 'We'll worship Matsu and have a barbecue,' he said. In recent years the activists have enjoyed no government or opposition patronage and have little public support. But the protests could exacerbate acute tensions between China and Japan over the continuing detention of a Chinese skipper after his boat allegedly rammed two coast guard vessels in Japanese waters near the Senkakus on Tuesday. The ramming incident, one of a growing number of confrontations between Japanese and Chinese vessels in the region, triggered public protests in Beijing and Hong Kong last week. Huang was one of more than 100 mostly veteran activists from Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Macau and overseas Chinese communities who attended the conference Saturday. In a message dated Tuesday that was read at the start of the conference, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou 馬英九 extended his best wishes for the meeting. 'It is my greatest hope that with this esteemed conference, consensus . . . can be reached in probing the practicalities of maritime economic territory, guaranteeing the livelihood and rights of fishermen and contributing all strength in the interests of regional peace, cooperation and prosperity,' he said."

The Taipei Times has a similar article in its Sunday edition.

It should be kept in mind that the neither the Chinese or Taiwanese governments started making any serious territorial claims to the Senkaku Islands until the late 1960's/early 1970's, when, surely by coincidence, geological surveys of the waters around the then American-held islands pointed to the possibility of abundant natural gas deposits in the seabed (not to mention the rich fishing grounds).

Some posters might not be able to see it, but the Middle Kingdom mindset is alive in Taiwan, most worryingly in the mind of the president of the Republic of China 中華民國 ("...regional peace, cooperation and prosperity" long as it's done the Chinese way). Alive but not well, fortunately - as the article points out, the dispute over the Senkaku Islands doesn't generate much "outrage" or "hurt feelings" among the majority of the Taiwanese population.

My wife and daughter try their hands at a Taiko no Tatsujin 太鼓の達人 rhythm game before joining the local 台客 and 台妹 in shopping at the Carrefour in Taya 大雅

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