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Japan halts Taiwanese activists' trip to islands

The incident around the islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diayou in China involved one Taiwanese boat and four Taiwanese coast guard vessels.

Tokyo: Japanese Coast Guard vessels fired water cannons at a Taiwanese boat Thursday to keep a group of activists from landing on East China Sea islands at the centre of a dispute that's strained ties between Japan and China.

The Taiwanese boat left the area along with four Taiwanese coast guard vessels that had accompanied it, the Japanese Coast Guard said in a faxed statement. Three Chinese Marine Surveillance vessels were also circling the islands just outside Japanese-administered waters, according to the statement.

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Japan fires water cannon at Taiwan activists

Japanese coast guards release black smoke and fire water cannon at Taiwanese activists heading to disputed islands in the South China Sea.

China has demanded that Japan withdraw its September purchase of the islands, elevating tensions between Asia's biggest economies that has damaged a $US340 billion ($324 billion) trade relationship and prolonged Japan's recession. The United States has repeatedly said the chain, also claimed by Taiwan, falls under a mutual defense treaty with Japan while saying it takes no position on sovereignty.

Taiwan's trip Thursday was aimed at safeguarding sovereignty and protecting its citizens, who departed at 1.45am from northern Taiwan, the Coast Guard Administration said in a statement on its website. The group aimed to put a statue of the sea goddess Matsu on the islands, Taipei-based Central News Agency reported.

Japan last shot water cannons in September to drive off about 50 Taiwanese fishing boats and patrol vessels from the islands, known as Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese. The dispute has escalated in the past month, with both China and Japan dispatching fighter jets to monitor each other's movements in the area.

Japanese Coast Guard vessels had earlier tried to block the Taiwanese ships 28 nautical miles from the islands, Taiwan's Central News Agency said.

A Japanese Coast Guard patrol boat sprays a water cannon over a Taiwan Coast Guard boat to warn a Taiwanese leisure boat ...
A Japanese Coast Guard patrol boat sprays a water cannon over a Taiwan Coast Guard boat to warn a Taiwanese leisure boat carrying four Taiwanese activists that they not to go any further towards the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in East China Sea. Photo: AP

China this week criticised US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for saying the US opposes any effort to disrupt Japan's administration of the islands. Her talks in Washington with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida were the highest level meetings between the two allies since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office last month. He pledged to boost defense spending in response to China's claims to the area, which are rich in oil, natural gas and fish.

Mr Abe made an overture to China this week by having coalition New Komeito Party leader Natsuo Yamaguchi carry a personal letter to Beijing from him to Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping. In an editorial today, the Chinese state-run Global Times newspaper said it was doubtful that "the secret whispers brought by Yamaguchi are valuable."

Bloomberg