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Taiwan, Japan to set up dialogue on maritime affairs cooperation

ROC Central News Agency

2016/05/23 17:20:02

Taipei, May 23 (CNA) Taiwan and Japan have decided to set up a dialogue mechanism on maritime affairs cooperation by the end of July in the wake of their fishery dispute over the Okinotori atoll, an official said Monday.

The new government's position is that any disputes should be resolved through negotiation, said Cabinet spokesman Tung Chen-yuan (童振源).

The government believes that maintaining an amicable relationship with Japan is an important part of Taiwan's overall foreign relations and that the two sides should not take any action that could increase bilateral tension, but should actively engage in constructive dialogue on maritime affairs, he said.

Based on a common understanding of the need to maintain the rapport between Taiwan and Japan, the two sides have decided to establish a dialogue mechanism on maritime affairs cooperation under the existing framework of Taiwan's Association of East Asian Relations and Japan's Interchange Association, he said.

Besides fishery cooperation, the dialogue mechanism will also cover issues such as environmental protection, scientific research and maritime emergency and rescue, according to Tung.

The Okinotori dispute erupted after a Taiwanese fishing boat was detained by Japan April 25 on the high seas near the Japan-controlled atoll.

The administration of former President Ma Ying-jeo (馬英九) lodged a strong protest with Japan after the Japanese authorities refused to release the boat until the owner had paid a security deposit of 6 million Japanese yen (about US$54,000).

Japan claims the atoll is an island and that it is therefore entitled to a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone. But Taiwan insists that it is not an island because it cannot sustain human habitation, and accused Japan of using land reclamation to expand the atoll.

Ma has previously proposed submitting the dispute to international mediation and arbitration.

(By Tai Ya-chen and Y.F. Low)

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