Japan, Taiwan Ships Exchange Water Cannon Fire As China’s First Aircraft Carrier Entering Service

BEIJING, Sept. 26 – Japanese and Taiwanese ships shot water cannon at each other yesterday in the latest confrontation over tiny islands in the East China Sea as Japan met with another rival, China, in an effort to tamp down tensions.

A Japanese coast guard ship sprays water at a Taiwanese ship yesterday near the disputed islands. (AP)

About 40 Taiwanese fishing boats and 12 patrol boats entered waters near the islands yesterday morning, briefly triggering an exchange of water cannon fire with Japanese coast guard ships. Coast guard officials said the Taiwanese vessels had ignored warnings to get out of the waters and pulled back after being fired upon.

It was Taiwan’s first foray into the waters around the islands – known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China – since the Japanese government purchased some of them from private owners two weeks ago, sparking sometimes violent protests in China.

China, Japan and Taiwan all claim the islands, which Tokyo administers.

“China will never tolerate any unilateral actions by Japan that harm Chinese territorial sovereignty,” Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun told Japanese Vice-Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai in Beijing yesterday, according to a statement on the Chinese Foreign Ministry website.

“Japan must banish illusions, undertake searching reflection and use concrete actions to amend its errors, returning to the consensus and understandings reached between our two countries’ leaders.”

The Kyodo news agency said Mr Kawai told reporters: “Given the current situation, there were severe parts. But I can say we both stated our thinking in a frank way.”

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou supports the “protecting Diaoyutai campaign” launched by local fishermen and praised the coast guard for its role in escorting the Taiwanese vessels to the area, said his spokesman, Mr Fan Chiang Tai-chi. AGENCIES

China’s first aircraft carrier in service

China formally entered its first aircraft carrier into service yesterday, underscoring its ambitions to be a leading Asian naval power, although the ship is not expected to carry a full complement of planes or be ready for combat for some time.

Handover ceremony of China’s first aircraft carrier “Liaoning” Tuesday (Xinhua)

The formal handing over of the carrier to the navy in the northern port of Dalian – attended by President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao – was a triumphant show of national strength at a time of tensions with Japan over islands claimed by both sides.

The Ministry of Defence said the newly-named Liaoning aircraft carrier would “raise the overall operational strength of the Chinese navy” and help Beijing to “effectively protect national sovereignty, security and development interests”.

The trial runs of the aircraft carrier have so far been to test the ship’s propulsion, communications and navigation systems. But launching and recovering fixed-wing aircraft at sea is a much trickier proposition.

It will take years to build the proper aircraft, to train pilots to land in adverse weather on a moving deck and to develop a proper carrier battle group.

Analysts say the Liaoning, refitted from former Ukraine vessel Varyag, will be used mostly for training and testing ahead of the possible launch of China’s first domestically built carriers after 2015.