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Taiwan, Japan to resolve Okinotori dispute: official

ROC Central News Agency

2016/06/16 18:05:31

Taipei, June 16 (CNA) Taiwan is determined to address the dispute with Japan over fishing near the Okinotori atoll in talks scheduled for late July, an official said Thursday.

Vice Foreign Affairs Minister Leo Lee (李澄然) made the comment at a meeting of the Legislative Yuan's Internal Administration Committee that was also attended by officials from the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) and the Council of Agriculture.

In the meeting, People First Party (PFP) Legislator Chen Yi-chieh (陳怡潔) asked whether the new government has continued with efforts to protect the rights of Taiwanese fishermen operating in waters near Okinotori in the western Pacific since it took office May 20.

Citing Japanese media reports from May 23 that Taiwan's Coast Guard would withdraw patrols from the vicinity because of the new administration's stance, Chen asked whether the new government is no longer protecting the rights of Taiwanese fishermen operating there.

Lee responded that the Cabinet will hold talks with Japan on maritime affairs, including fishing rights, by the end of July.

Lee also said that the new administration has continued to deploy patrol vessels in waters near Okinotori atoll to protect Taiwanese fishing boats operating there.

CGA Director-General Lee Chung-wei (李仲威) also dismissed the Japanese reports as incorrect, saying that on that day they were published, patrol vessels were operating near Okinotori.

The 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.

The new administration has announced that the two countries 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.

(By Liu Jian-bang and Evelyn Kao)

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