October 9, 2012


Taiwan intends to resume fishery talks with Japan


Taiwan intends to continue fishery talks with Japan in November despite the countries' territorial dispute over the Diaoyutai Islands.


Taiwan said it first needs to discuss the event in more detail with Japan, according to a foreign affairs official who requested anonymity.


The talking points may include how to preserve fishing resources and establishing fishing boundaries with Japan. An agreement on the issue of fishing boundaries could take some time, however, the official said.


In the talks, Taiwan is also hoping to address provisional measures to ensure that its fishing boats can continue operating in Diaoyutais waters free of interference from Japanese coast guard authorities. The outcome of this discussion will be central to the next round of talks, the official said.


The talks will not cover the sovereignty of the islands in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture, which are claimed by Taiwan and China, according to several government sources.


Taiwanese fishing boats have not been harassed by the Japanese as often as they used to be in recent years, ostensibly because Taiwan established temporary law enforcement boundaries in the disputed area, the official stated.


The two parties last held talks on fishing rights in their overlapping territories three years ago. Since 2009, the talks have been held up due to their differences on how to resolve the cross-border fishery quarrel.


Taiwan is also hoping to reinforce its cooperation with Japan on Pacific Ocean resources in regional fishery management bodies. A possible outcome is that both sides could sign an agreement or a memorandum of understanding, the official said.


Japan had proposed resuming the fishing rights talks early this month, in a positive response to the East China Sea Peace Initiative introduced by President Ma Ying-jeou to settle the Diaoyutais dispute, according to Su Qi-cheng, deputy director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.


However, this arrangement was derailed as a result of growing tensions between the two sides since Japan nationalised the Diaoyutais by buying three of the islets from their owner on September.


Taiwan responded by sending a flotilla of 75 fishing boats escorted by coast guard vessels, all of which sailed close to the islets on September 25 to assert Taiwan's sovereignty over the archipelago and their right to fish there.


As no fishing agreement currently exists between Japan and Taiwan, Taiwanese boats caught operating inside Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) are subject to interference by Japanese authorities.


This defiance brought on an altercation between Taiwanese and Japanese coast guard vessels involving the use of water cannons.