A file photo shows Japanese coastal guard vessels repelling fishing boats using water cannons. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Lawmakers of the Kuomintang (KMT), now a major opposition party in Taiwan after losing the 2016 presidential election, are pressuring the Tsai Ing-wen administration to get an explanation from Tokyo over an assault on a Taiwanese fishing boat that involved powerful water cannons off the sensitive Senkaku Islands last weekend.

This has prodded Taiwan’s foreign ministry to threaten to recall the island’s de facto ambassador to Japan if it does not receive a formal response.

Members of the KMT caucus have called Tokyo’s rough handling of Taiwanese fish boats that accidentally entered disputed waters part of its tactic to browbeat and subjugate Taiwan in the ongoing row over fishing rights and territorial spats.

This has become a major sticking point in the otherwise amicable relations between the two sides.

KMT lawmakers said Tsai’s affinity towards Tokyo had failed to put Taiwan on an equal footing, the Taipei Times reported.

However, the Tsai administration has said the incident would not scupper the next round of Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement talks set for Thursday and Friday next week. Controversial issues should be on the negotiating table, including whether the boat crossed the line as Tokyo claimed.

Taipei announced on Monday that it had lodged a protest with Tokyo, accusing the Japanese of using excessive force against civilians near Taiwan’s territorial waters and added that the act violated international laws. They stressed that the boat in question did not cross a tentative red line being negotiated by the two sides.

A 2013 agreement covers the maritime zone south of 27° north latitude and north of Japan’s Yaeyama and Miyako islands, which are part of the overlapping area of exclusive economic zones claimed by Taiwan and Japan.

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