Taipei, Japan holding fishery talks in Tokyo

Taipei--The sixth meeting of a Taiwan-Japan fishing commission opened Wednesday in Tokyo to discuss fishing rules in waters near the disputed Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea and other related issues, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

During the three-day meeting, the two sides will address unresolved issues related to fishing rules and guidelines in the waters around the Diaoyutai Islands covered by a bilateral fishery agreement signed in 2013, the ministry said in a statement.

Tsai Ming-yaw (???), secretary-general of the Association of East Asian Relations -- which handles ties with Japan in the absence of formal diplomatic relations -- is leading Taiwan's delegation at the meeting, the ministry said.

The Taiwan delegation also includes officials from other related government agencies and fishermen, it said.

The Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, which represents Japan's interests in Taiwan in the absence of bilateral diplomatic ties, also issued a statement, saying that the meeting is being held ahead of the fishing season for the two sides to exchange views on whether existing fishing rules need to be adjusted.

The Taiwan-Japan fishing commission was established as part of an agreement signed in April 2013 by the two countries on fishing rights in the East China Sea near the disputed Diaoyutai Islands, known as the Senkakus Islands in Japan.

Under the terms of the agreement, Taiwanese and Japanese boats can operate freely in a 74,300-square-kilometer area around the uninhabited islets.

The Diaoyutais, some 100 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan, have been under Japan's administrative control since 1972 but are also claimed by Taiwan and China.

The Japan-controlled Okinotori atoll is another place where fishing disputes between Taiwan and Japan have occurred, and opposition Kuomintang Legislator Wang Yu-min (???) on Wednesday urged the government to bring up the Okinotori dispute at the meeting.

But the ministry responded by saying that the Taiwan-Japan fishing commission only deals with issues related to waters near the Diaoyutai Islands.

Taiwan's government has vowed in the past to hold talks with Japan to protect the fishing rights of Taiwanese fishermen near Okinotori, located in the Pacific Ocean about 1,600 kilometers east-southeast of Taiwan's southern tip.

It argues that while Japan has sovereignty over Okinotori, the definition of Okinotori -- whether it is an island or an atoll -- is unclear.

Until the international community reaches a consensus on the issue, Japan should respect the freedom of Taiwan and other countries to fish in waters near Okinotori, the ministry has said.

Taiwan and Japan decided to establish a dialogue on maritime cooperation issues on May 23, 2016, three days after President Tsai Ing-wen (???) took office, in response to a dispute over a Taiwanese fishing boat being detained by Japan on April 25, 2016 on the high seas near Okinotori.

The first meeting of the dialogue took place in Tokyo last October.

The Okinotori issue was raised but the two sides failed to reach a consensus. Taiwan reiterated that Taiwanese fishermen have the right to operate in waters near Okinotori, while Japan repeated its stance that Okinotori is an island, which means it is entitled to a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel