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Taiwan hopes to resolve Okinotori dispute in talks with Japan

ROC Central News Agency

2016/05/31 20:35:53

Taipei, May 31 (CNA) The goal of upcoming maritime negotiations with Japan is to allow Taiwanese fishermen to fish in waters near Japan's Okinotori atoll, an official said Tuesday.

Signing an agreement is not the only answer, Tsai Ming-yaw (蔡明耀), secretary-general of the Association of East Asian Relations, said in a regular press briefing held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The association is a non-government agency set up by the government to handle Taiwan-Japan affairs in the absence of official ties. Its Japanese counterpart is the Interchange Association.

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-jeou (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 defines the atoll as an island, which 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 accuses Japan of carrying out land reclamation to expand the atoll.

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

Last week, the new administration of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) announced that the two sides will set up a dialogue mechanism for cooperation on maritime affairs by the end of July, in an effort to seek a resolution of the dispute.

Meanwhile Tuesday, a Coast Guard vessel returned to Kaohsiung for resupply after a one-month patrol mission in waters near the atoll to protect Taiwanese fishermen operating there.

It is scheduled to depart for Okinotori again June 5.

According to Coast Guard personnel, the patrol efforts have not only prevented Taiwanese fishermen from being harassed by Japan's coast guard but have also allowed them to catch full cargoes.

(By Chen Ja-fo and Y.F. Low)

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