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Chinese fishing trawler collides with Coast Guard patrols

Date Posted: 2010-09-08

A Chinese fishing boat ordered out of Japanese waters near the Senkaku Islands collided with a Japan Coast Guard patrol boat as it fled Tuesday, then struck a second Coast Guard vessel minutes later.

The incident occurred in the East China Sea near the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, which China claims and calls the Diaoyu Islands, and which Taiwan also claims and calls Tiaoyutai Islands, some 12 kilometers north-northeast of Kubajima Island. The Chinese fishing trawler’s bow smashed into the 1,349-ton patrol boat Yonakuni about 10:15 a.m., minutes after being told to depart Japanese waters. Three Japanese patrol boats gave chase, ultimately stopping the fishing boat, but not before it collided with the Japanese Coast Guard’s Mizuki patrol boat.

The fishing boat’s captain and crew are being questioned on suspicion of violating Japan’s fisheries law. Japanese officials say that had the ship stopped when first ordered, and an inspection permitted, there would have been no problem. Seiji Maehara, the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, says any foreign vessel can sail through Japanese territorial waters under provisions of “innocent passage”, but that no foreign fishing boats are allowed to fish in Japanese waters.

The Yonakuni suffered a broken deck handrail from the collision, while the Mizuki’s starboard side was dented and a half-dozen of its handrails broken.

The Japan Coast Guard reports to Minister Maehara. Maehara says no shots were fired during the hour-long incident, and notes that China has refrained from comment on the collision. Tuesday’s incident was the first since June 2008, when a Japan Coast Guard vessel collided with a Taiwanese fishing boat in the same region. The pleasure fishing boat sank, but all crew and passengers aboard were rescued.

The Senkaku Islands are officially a part of Ishigaki City in Okinawa Prefecture. The uninhabited islands straddle the waterway between southern Okinawa Prefecture and Taiwan. China and Taiwan have been arguing the islands are theirs since the early 1970’s.

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