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Taiwan activists demand Japan pay for damaged boat


Taiwanese activists on Wednesday demanded Tw$5 million ($173,000) in compensation from Japan for allegedly damaging a boat they sailed near disputed islands during a protest last month.

The boat, which carried seven people, abandoned a plan to land on the East China Sea islands after being blocked by Japanese coastguard vessels which fired water cannon at it, the activists said.

The fishing boat was badly damaged during the encounter on January 24, they said, adding that it would cost an estimated Tw$3 million to repair or replace two engines and some electronic and wooden equipment on the boat.

"We also demand an additional Tw$2 million for the emotional distress we endured as the Japanese ships attempted to ram into our boat to bully unarmed Taiwanese people," said activist Tony Huang.

The disputed islands, in an area where the seabed is believed to harbour valuable mineral reserves, are known as the Senkakus in Japanese and the Diaoyus in Chinese.

Japan administers the islands, which are also claimed by China and Taiwan.

The activists, from the Taiwan-based Chinese Association for Protecting the Diaoyutais (Diaoyu Islands), protested outside Japan's de facto embassy in Taipei and handed a petition letter for the compensation claim, Huang said.

Coastguard vessels from Japan and Taiwan also exchanged water cannon barrages in September after dozens of Taiwanese boats were escorted by patrol ships into the islands' waters.

Previous activist landings have resulted in the arrest and deportation of those setting foot on what Japan says has been its indisputable territory for more than a century.

The incident came at a time of growing concern over the intensified standoff between China and Japan in the territorial row.

Tokyo recently accused the crew of a Chinese frigate of locking its weapons-tracking radar on a Japanese destroyer, a claim Beijing has denied.