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2ND LD: Taiwan protesters return to port after approaching Senkakus.

TAIPEI, Aug. 17 Kyodo


A ship from Taiwan carrying protesters that sailed near the disputed Senkaku Islands Thursday returned to port in northeastern Ilan County in the afternoon.

''Unfortunately we didn't make it,'' Huang Shi-lin, a Yunghe City lawmaker who led the group, was quoted by local news media as saying.

''We were watched closely by the Japanese coast guard and were forced to give up in the end after they issued warnings against us,'' he said.

Huang said the trip was just a ''warm-up'' and suggested that activists from Hong Kong and China as well as others from Taiwan will be invited for another protest trip at the end of this year.

The ship, carrying eight Taiwan citizens, left Shenao port early Thursday heading for the Japan-held islands, which are also claimed by China.

Japan Coast Guard officials said a coast guard vessel warned the chartered fishing boat not to enter Japanese waters at about 6:30 a.m.

The ship continued on its course, coming within 33 kilometers of the islands around 7 a.m., before heading back to Taiwan.

At one point, protesters on the ship hurled stones at the patrol boat but no damage was reported.

Protesters from Taiwan, China and Hong Kong have regularly made trips to the disputed region in the East China Sea. Japan generally repulses all attempts to land on the isles, which are surrounded by rich fishing grounds.

Japan took control of the islands in 1895 but the islands were placed under U.S. control after Japan's defeat in World War II. The United States returned the islets, along with Okinawa, to Japan in 1972.

China and Taiwan started making territorial claim to the islands, after undersea grounds around the islands were found to possibly have oil reserves.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Aug 21, 2006
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