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Taiwan rejects Japan's protest over fishing boat action

ROC Central News Agency

2012/09/26 12:56:25

Taipei, Sept. 26 (CNA) Foreign Minister Timothy Yang has rejected a protest by a Japanese envoy over Taiwanese fishing boats sailing near the Diaoyutai Islands and reasserted Taiwan's sovereignty over the East China Sea island chain, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Tuesday.

Yang and Tadashi Imai, the visiting president of Japan's Interchange Association, which represents Japan's interests in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties, exchanged protests during a two-hour, closed-door meeting, according to the ministry.

Yang asserted that the island chain is the territory of the Republic of China and that the surrounding waters are traditional fishing grounds of Taiwanese fishermen.

He also said that Taiwanese boats have the right to enter the waters, and rejected a protest by Imai, who arrived in Taiwan Tuesday to explain Japan's recent move to nationalize the island chain, which has drawn strong protests from Taiwan and China.

"Taiwanese fishermen's legal rights to operate in waters surrounding the Diaoyutai Islands cannot be violated, and the Republic of China's government will do everything to safeguard their legal rights," Yang was quoted as saying by the ministry.

Yang and Imai also agreed to resume fishery talks to resolve the ongoing friction over fishing rights near the disputed islands.

The two countries have held 16 rounds of talks on the issue, the last coming in 2009, but have failed to reach an agreement.

A large contingent of Taiwanese fishing boats, under the escort of Taiwan's coast guard ships, sailed into waters near the Diaoyutai Islands Tuesday to protest Japan's move to nationalize the island group and its harassment of Taiwanese fishermen operating in the area.

The fishing boats returned to Taiwan in the evening after completing their protest mission.

Yang asked Japan not to ignore the fact of the Republic of China's existence and urged Japan to hold a dialogue with Taiwan while handling related issues.

He also said Japan's nationalization of the island chain has infringed upon the sovereignty of the Republic of China, heightened tensions in the region and hurt the friendly feelings among Taiwanese people toward Japan.

The Diaoyutai Islands, located 100 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan, are currently administered by Japan, but are also claimed by Taiwan and China.

(By Emmanulle Tseng and Lilian Wu)

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