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Taiwan-Japan fishery talks to highlight fishing rights

ROC Central News Agency

2012/10/14 16:05:37

Taipei, Oct. 14 (CNA) The Fisheries Agency under the Council of Agriculture said Sunday that it will protect the fishing rights and traditional fishing grounds of local fishermen at fishery talks with Japan that could be resumed in November, despite the ongoing territorial dispute over the Diaoyutai Islands.

Instead of touching upon the sensitive issue of sovereignty over the island chain, defining the overlapping waters between Taiwan and Japan will be highlighted during the long-stalled 17th round of talks, the agency said.

Although there is no controversy over the territorial waters of Taiwan, which extend 12 nautical miles from the islands' coastal baseline, overlapping parts of the exclusive economic zones of the two countries, which extend up to 200 nautical miles from the coastline, will require further negotiation, the agency said.

Taiwan wants to resolve the issue according to a principle that considers the size of the islands, their population and frequency of economic activities (the islands are uninhabited), while Japan insists on applying a median line as the line of demarcation, which would extends to the area 50 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan, it said.

Amid disputed claims over the island group, it is most important to ensure that fishing boats from Taiwan can operate in the area near the Diaoyutai Islands without problems, said the agency's director, James Sha.

If any vessels from Taiwan are detained and fined up to NT$1 million (US$34,244) by Japan, the agency will pay around 80 percent of the fines, it said.

Japan proposed resuming the fishing rights talks with Taiwan in early October, seen as a positive response to the East China Sea peace initiative proposed 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.

But the plan was derailed by escalating tensions between the two sides since Japan moved to nationalize the Diaoyutais by buying three of the islets Sept. 11.

In response to the Japanese move, a flotilla of 75 Taiwanese fishing boats, escorted by coast guard vessels, sailed close to the islets Sept. 25 to assert Taiwan's sovereignty over the archipelago and the right of Taiwanese fishermen to operate there.

The action led to an altercation between Taiwanese and Japanese coast guard vessels that involved the use of water cannons.

The uninhabited Diaoyutai Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China, lie about 100 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan. They have been under Japan's control since 1972, but are also claimed by Taiwan and China.

(By Yang Su-min and Maia Huang)

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