25 Sep 2012

Taiwanese flotilla chased from disputed islands

9:16 pm on 25 September 2012

Dozens of Taiwanese boats have retreated from a protest at disputed East China Sea islands, after the Japanese coastguard fired water cannons at them.

The islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are controlled by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan.

Regional tension has been high since Japan's purchase of the islands from their private Japanese owner, the BBC reports.

A spokesperson for Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration told the BBC 58 fishing vessels arrived in the disputed waters about 5am local time, after setting off from a northern Taiwanese port on Monday afternoon.

They were accompanied by several Taiwanese coast guard vessels.

Japan's coast guard says warnings were issued to the boats and television footage showed water being sprayed towards the Taiwanese ships.

The flotilla turned back towards Taiwan after being in the area for a few hours.

The row has seen anti-Japanese protests in several Chinese cities.

Chinese surveillance and fishing boats have also been sailing in and out of waters around the islands in recent days, following the Japanese government's announcement that it had bought the islands, the BBC reports.

Taiwan believes the islands have historically been part of its territory, under the jurisdiction of its northern county of Yilan. Japan annexed the islands in 1895.