Taiwan: Conflict over Diaoyutai Islands

On June 11, a Taiwanese recreational fishing boat United(聯合號) sank following a collision with a Japanese coastguard vessel 11km off the disputed Diaoyutai(釣魚台) (Japan: Senkaku) islands, an island chain simultaneously claimed by Taiwan, Japan and China. Passengers and crew on the sinking boat were picked up by Japan.

Shortly after, Taiwanese mainstream media covered the accident. Political talk shows and call-in programmes, in particular, ardently discussed the accident and the long-standing sovereign dispute over Diaoyutais. Meanwhile, issues of complicated sovereign claims and fishing rights challenged the newly elected Taiwanese President Ma Ying-Jeou and his government.

In his youth, President Ma(馬英九) passionately defended Taiwan's claim to the Diaoyutais. He also blasted former Taiwanese President Chen shui-Bian(陳水扁) whose attitude, he felt, was not proactive enough on the issue of sovereignty claims. The accident, however, occurred in a sensitive time while talks between Taiwanese and China officials were taking place.

Although Taiwan, China and Japan all claim sovereignty over the Diaoyutais, it is recognized that Japan has jurisdiction. The handling of the accident intertwined these historical, political and economic issues, and made them more prickly. As a consequence for Taiwan, the sovereignty dispute is not only an inevitable task, but a pending problem.

Many Taiwanese politicians insisted on being harsh to Japan while dealing with the accident. Republic of China (ROC) Premier Liu Chao-shiuan said during an interpolation session in parliament that he would not rule out going to war with Japan, if Taipei and Tokyo fail to resolve the dispute over the Diaoyutai islands through diplomatic actions.

The tense situation between Taipei and Tokyo that suddenly arose shocked Taiwanese bloggers. From various ends of the political spectrum, bloggers expressed their opinions and comments on this accident.

Blogger, Da-Dou(大豆), cited coverage of this accident from Japanese media where the affair is simply being treated as an accident. Compared with the relatively balanced way in which Japanese media covered the collision, Taiwanese media quoted an overwhelming majority of statements from Taiwanese fishing boat crew and officials.

Da-Dou questioned, whether it was really the truth, as the fishing boat skipper claimed, that the fishing boat was deliberately rammed until it sunk by a Japanese coastguard vessel:

相較於日本媒體,台灣媒體並沒有對於另一方當事人的說詞作任何查證或基本的平衡報導。只是單方面強調船長的說法,並沒有作到客觀中立。 ………….

Compared with Japanese Media, Taiwanese media is unbalanced in their reporting the accident, where they have only adopted statements from the skipper of the sinking Taiwanese finishing boat without any investigations, and simply ignored statements from Japan, the other side involved in this accident. Taiwanese media did not reach objectivity and neutrality………..


娛樂漁業漁船活動時間全天二十四小時開放。但每航次以四十八小時為限。 娛樂漁業漁船活動區域以臺灣本島及澎湖週邊二十四浬內及彭佳嶼、綠島、蘭嶼週邊十二浬內為限。


Whether the Diaoyutais are a port of Taiwan's territory or not, the recreational fishing boat United apparently broke the law. According to the article 24 of the Regulations of Recreational fishery:

‘Activity scheduled for recreational fishing vessels is permitted 24-hours a day. The limit for each sequence of voyages, however, is 48 hours.’ And ‘The region of activity is limited to 24 miles surrounding Taiwan and Peng Hu, and within 12 miles around Pen Jia islet, Green island, and Lan Yu’.

That is to say, it is illegal for a ‘recreational’ fishing boat like the United to go as far as 90 nautical miles near the Diaoyutai islands. Further, according to fishery operator handed in to the authorities before the recreational fishing boat United set out, a data table of the recreational fishery craft's navigating plan matched what they actually did. So actually, this is not the first time the United did this against the law.

Another blogger, Pau, points out that regardless of who claims sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands, Japan has to take responsibility for the sunken boat following a collision with a Japanese coast guard patrol boat:

回頭來看這次聯合號事件,日方絕對沒有任何理由跟立場扣留船上任何人。聯合號上插的是中華民國國旗,不是日本國旗,船上所有人都 是中華民國國民。姑且不論釣魚台爭議,日方撞沉我方船隻就是侵犯我方主權,插著我方旗幟的船隻,就等於中華民國領土,豈能容日本人將之撞沉。撞沉我方船艦 扣留我方人員,視我方主權為何物?

Going over this unexpected incident, there is no excuse or ground for Japan to detain anyone from that fishing boat. The flag hanging on “United” is of the Republic of China, not of Japan, not to mention the fact that all passengers on the boat are citizens of ROC. Besides, a boat with our flag on it, is regarded as a part of the territory of the Republic of China. Aside from the long-standing sovereignty dispute over the islands, Japan offends our sovereignty by ramming the boat bearing our national flag. This is unacceptable! Did they ever consider sovereignty issues while ramming our boat and detaining our citizens?

Blogger, Yu-Wen Huan(宇文渙), is reminded of the Boxer rebellion in this event:

台灣民意代表們鋪排的抗日秀 真是精彩絕倫 從高呼不惜一戰 送霹靂幹員護漁 要國防部長開飛機去繞一圈 進而升高軍事對峙都有 兩位聲望最低的部長—外交部和國防部 這下好不容易找到可以翻身的機會 都是狠話、大話盡出 因為再沒有比愛國心 更便宜、更方便販賣的道具了 越遠離戰場 人就越好戰

The anti-Japan show arranged by those representatives is fantastic. Those actions include claiming, “War if necessary”, sending SWAT teams to protect fishers, asking the minister of National Defense to fly to the islands, and heightening the military situation. The ministers of Foreign Affairs and National Defense, which have the lowest reputation, now have the opportunity to change the situation. Their tones are high-pitched and words are touchy, because nothing is cheaper and easier-to-sell than patriotism. People are more militant when they are away from the battlefield.

Xiao Ming(小明) in NanFangSao school appealed to everyone to face the music:

聯合號不是「漁船」,不是一般漁民去捕魚,是向釣客收錢載人出海釣魚去。這種攬客出海釣魚的營利船,居然可以到處走透透到處去享 受姜太公釣魚樂趣,怪也不怪?這次沒被日本修理,會不會哪一天他跑到北極去賞北極熊呀!!現在是怎樣?「四海一家」,你家就是我家嗎??怎麼可以這麼自由 呀!什麼「海洋國家」,我棉的船老大早就這麼做了~>_<~ 釣魚台是台灣的?我的感覺,這種說法和「東起烏蘇里江、黑龍江…西到帕米爾高原噴赤河,南到增母暗砂……都是中華民國固有疆域」的說法,還真 的有異曲同工之妙。乾脆說月球、火星也是中華民國領土不是更好??

The “United” is not a fishing boat and (the crew on the boat) are not normal fishers. Instead they make money from driving passengers out for fishing. This kind of boats goes everywhere to enjoy the fun of fishing. Don't you feel that is weird? If they were not rammed by a Japanese coast guard patrol boat this time, would they go to Arctic to see polar bears next time? Now what, “The world is one family”, and your home is mine as well? How could they be so free? When people call for “Taiwan is a country of ocean”, I think those who are on “United” have already achieved that ~>_<~. For those who claim “Diaoyutai Islands belongs to Taiwan”, I think that is very similar to the saying that, “The territory of the Republic of China reaches east to Wusuli river and Heilongjiang River, west to the Pamirs and Panj River, south to TzengMoo sand…”. Why don't they just say that the moon and the Mars also belong Republic of China?

Meanwhile, Taiwanese blogger Walter argues that Taiwanese like to treat themselves as slaves. He feels sad for Taiwan's weakness and lacking of dignity:

我當然覺得上戰場打仗真是人生最大悲哀 可能一槍就被不知道哪來的流彈爆頭而死、也可能一顆炸彈就讓你灰飛煙滅? Than? 所以台灣該把戰爭這個選項移除? 我也怕死,我也想組美好家庭、簡簡單單到老。 但台灣人真的如此沒有尊嚴? 別忘了,台灣對釣魚台在憲法上是劃為”國土”的。

Of course, in my opinion, going to war is the most sorrowful thing in a human's life. People could die just by a stray bomb or a bullet. For this reason, then, should Taiwan eliminate going to war as an opinion? I am afraid of losing my life. I just want to have an ordinary family and lead a simple life. But what about the dignity of Taiwan? Do bear in mind, according to the Constitution, that the Diaoyutai islands are part of our territory.

Katana from Hong Kong suspects the hidden reasons causing the accident are not that simple:

這一撞,可能是日本鷹派跟台灣那批不想眼見國民黨跟中共之熱擁情況的在野派,暗手出招,陷你馬英九 一個政治危機,小馬哥強則得罪日本,不強又跟不上中國對此事件的強烈回應。中國此次如此強和快反應向日本罵,明顯跟暖春時態度不統調,可見又是中國鷹派給 胡、溫的一個回馬槍。

This accidental collision could be a trap secretly set by Japanese war hawks and out-of-power politicians in Taiwan who are not willing to see KMT and CPP allied. It meant to drag President Ma Ying-Jeou into a political crisis. President Ma's attitude could not be too strong to rile Tokyo. However, if his attitude was not strong enough, he would fell behind Beijing's burning reactions to this accident. Beijing immediately and strongly condemned Tokyo on this accident, which is apparently different from the attitude showing on the ‘warm spring’ meeting. It is thus clear that Chinese war hawks attempt to give Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao a back thrust.

On the official website of Ma Ying-Jeou's presidential campaign, commenter wiixdhsu said we should be harsh to Japan. Why not just set the Diaoyutai islands as a sightseeing spot officially recommended by the Taiwanese government, he says:

日本這國吃軟不吃硬,對於捍衛主權的做法應該在行動要更強硬一點,舉南韓為例,日本也宣稱獨(竹)島他們擁有主權,可是南 韓採取 強烈作法捍衛主權加派巡邏艦巡邏,最後甚至開放民眾遊客到獨(竹)島觀光,獲得人民一致支持,日本毫無辦法。我們政府應該規劃開放陸客來台並且也將釣魚台 納入旅遊景點,派巡邏艦巡邏,徹底捍衛釣魚台主權,我相信此舉一定能獲得兩岸三地的民眾全面支持。

Japan always yield to soft approaches but rejects force. However, we should apply even more get-tough actions to protect our sovereignty. Let's take South Korea as the best example. Both Japan and South Korea claimed sovereignty over the Liancourt Rocks (Japan: Takeshima, Korea: Dokdo). South Korea took tough actions, sending petrol vessels and even allowed tourists to visit. South Korean people generally supported these actions. Finally, Japan cannot do a thing about this. Our government should include the Diaoyutais as a recommended sightseeing spot while planning to allow Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan. Moreover, sending coastguard vessels patrolling territorial waters nearby the Diaoyutai islands is necessary. We have to firmly claim our sovereignty by taking these actions. I believe these actions must be supported by people from the greater China area.

Blogger BillyPan says politicians only have very short-term passions on the issue of the Diaoyutai islands:

愛田友,蒼井空,穗花,小澤瑪利亞,麻美來台灣當Show Girl,台灣人馬上就忘記釣魚台在那裏了。

If Japanese AV (adult video) actresses Yua Aida, Sora Aoi, Honoka, Maria Ozawa and Asami were invited to Taipei as show girls, the Taiwanese would immediately forget where the Daioyutai Islands are.

There is a funny prank photo of former ROC president and military dictator, Chiang Kai-shek(蔣介石), which is created and published by a user of the popular scrabbling website VeryXD. Chiang's bluesy emotional expression is somehow funny, and the added caption says, “The Diaoyutai Islands cannot be given to Japanese”.

The Diaoyutai Islands cannot be given to Japanese

In the end, I would like to conclude with blogger, Lovelvislate's helpless words and drawing. His post, I believe, also represents thoughts of many Taiwanese.

釣魚台不是台灣的,也不是中華民國的,因為我們從來沒有保衛過它, 馬總統也別再說屁話了,我們不可能保衛它,也不可能為它與日本一戰,不可能的。 ………………… 如果是別的國家的漁船靠近釣魚台,日本是不可能如此的,我們必須面對現實, 就是我們很好欺負,個性溫和,總是逆來順受。

Taiwan has never had sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands, neither has the Republic of China. President Ma, please do not say stupid shit anymore. We can impossibly protect the Diaoyutai, nor fight against Japan for these islands either. Impossible. …… If there was a fishing boat of a country's other than Taiwan approaching the Diaoyutai Islands, Japan would not have done the same. The reality we must to face, is that we are easily bullied – we always bear bullies for our moderate manner.

我們必須面對現實,我們所有的不安都是來自不面對現實,現實是—我們不是一個國家, 我們沒有主權獨立,只有內政獨立,我們的軍隊,是名符其實的自慰隊。 美國也不可能會保衛台灣,美國、日本與中國都不承認中華民國的存在。 別傻了,釣魚台從不是我們的,忘了它吧。

The fact leads to the reality, where all our agitations come from. The fact is that Taiwan is just a political entity dealing with domestic affairs independently, not an independent country holding sovereignty over itself. All our army can veritably do is self-consolation, not self-defense. The U.S. can definitely not send their troops to protect Taiwan, either. Anyhow, the U.S., Japan and the People’s Republic of China deny recognizing Taiwan as a sovereign state. Therefore, don’t be silly – Taiwan has never had sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands. Forget it!

Translated From Chinese by Abstract and Pipperl. Reviewed by Solana Larson.


  • Kung fu panda

    文章提交者:最期之诗2008 加帖在 猫眼看人 【凯迪网络】 http://www.kdnet.net

    Taiwan,a star shines in the sky of Chung Hua
    Though dimmy, yet flames dancing refuse to die
    Though lonely, yet facing the terror of darkness refuse to bow
    Though solitude,yet has not forgotten honor and glory
    Though tinny,yet sparkling and glittering among endless darkness,always advancing

    Pray that we all become shining star
    Though dimmy and lonely,yet proud and brave,never ever give in
    Pray that we all standby the golden oath:
    Before dawn has come upon the dark sky
    There shines our glittering shadow


    Thanks to our Taiwan brothers,who donate generously during Wen Chuen earthquake.Mainland people can feel your deep love and compassion,prove again blood is thicker than water,because we all are brothers and sisters.

    Thanks to our Taiwan brothers,defending soverign at Diaoyutai.Mainland people can feel your patriotic heart.Though courage first come from you,we will all unite as one,and victory will come,we are all heros,smash all the intruders.

    Thanks to our Taiwan brothers,praticing freedom and democrcy.The voice of “People always No.One”,is the prove that CHINESE PEOPLE is PEOPLE of high dignity.who are worthy of freedom and democracy,who are not born into slavery,neither low class nor sub-human.


    When there are stars
    There are dreams.
    When we have dreams
    We have direction
    When we have direction
    We shall advance towards brightness
    Disgarding darkness behind

    Note:Above is a blog I copy from http://www.kdnet.net,a famous mainland chinese web site where I enjoy reading those postings,some of them are of superb quality.I have copy many classical writing,and will try to translate into English.

  • Ben

    Yes, forget it. ?Q will always be ?Q.

  • Sichi

    Diaoyutai Island is a hot potato for both sides of the Taiwan strait .How to get it is still a big question.however,we would better be together,or Japaese will devour it.

  • bobix

    It’s pretty funny trying to listen to you asians bash each other. I don’t blame you really. You are all correct.

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