|A Taiwanese fishing boat, Japan coast guard ships|
The dramatic standoff between dozens of Taiwanese fishing boats, Coast Guard Administration (CGA) vessels and Japanese patrol ships near the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) on Tuesday morning made global headlines and fueled speculation that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration may have orchestrated the incident to divert attention from domestic issues or to do Beijing’s work. However, observers said that things are not that simple.
Following the announcement by Tokyo on Sept. 11 that it had nationalized three islets in the Diaoyutais — known as the Senkakus in Japan — Taipei and Beijing, which both claim the island chain, protested the move, which had generated violent demonstrations across China and a much smaller rally in Taipei on Sunday.
On Sept. 20, the Suao Fishermen’s Association in Yilan County announced that several dozen Taiwanese fishing boats would set sail for the Diaoyutais on Monday to protest against what they called Japan’s “illegal occupation” of the island group and “harassment of fishermen” around the islands.
Although the Yilan County Government, headed by Commissioner Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), turned down a request for NT$5 million (US$170,000) in fuel subsidies for the fishermen, the sortie was eventually made possible by a donation of that amount by Want Want China Times Group chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明), who has often been portrayed as pro-China.
My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.