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Okinotori dispute to be on agenda of Taiwan-Japan maritime talks

ROC Central News Agency

2016/07/04 18:05:31

Taipei, July 4 (CNA) The dispute between Taiwan and Japan over fishing in waters surrounding the Japan-controlled Okinotori atoll will be on the agenda of the two nations' first dialogue on the issue in Taipei in late July, Taiwan's top fisheries official said Monday.

Fisheries Agency Director-General Chen Tain-shou (陳添壽) gave the confirmation at a hearing of the legislative Economics Committee, in which several lawmakers expressed concern about the Okinotori issue and the planned dialogue with Japan.

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

The administration of then-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 (US$54,000).

Japan defines the atoll as an island, which means it is therefore entitled to a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone. Taiwan, however, maintains that it is not an island because it cannot sustain human habitation.

The new government of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) announced May 23 -- three days after Tsai's inauguration -- that it had reached an agreement with Japan to set up a new dialogue mechanism for talks on maritime cooperation.

At the Monday's hearing at the Legislative Yuan, Chen said the first round of talks under the dialogue platform will touch on issues related to fishing in waters close to Okinotori.

Asked if the chances are high for the two sides to reach initial consensus on the fishing issue, Chen replied that based on past experience, it is not easy to produce a satisfactory result on fishing disputes in the first stage of negotiations.

"But at least it is good that Japan is willing to include the Okinotori problem on the agenda," Chen said.

Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) said at the hearing that he hopes talks on the Taiwan-Japan dialogue platform can produce reasonable resolutions to any fishery disputes between the two countries, particularly those concerning fishing rights.

So far, no precise dates or members of the delegations from each side for the dialogue have been announced.

(By Liu Kuan-ting and Elizabeth Hsu)
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