Representative to Japan remaining mum on relations

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Oct 02, 2012 - Page 1

Representative to Japan Shen Ssu-tsun (沈斯淳) yesterday provided scant details about the current status of relations between Taiwan and Japan to lawmakers, who were keen to know when the two countries could bring the relationship back on track following a territorial row.

The Japanese government on Sept. 11 bought three of the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, from a private owner, leading to protests from the government and civil society against Japan, the recall of Shen from Tokyo, rallies and a trip to assert the country’s sovereignty and fishing rights involving fishing boats under coast guard protection.

Shen, recalled to Taiwan the day after Japan’s nationalization of the islands, was invited to attend a meeting on the issue at the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.

Several Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers pressed Shen on the government’s strategy toward Japan following the spat, asking when Taiwan would launch a new round of negotiations with Tokyo to ensure that fishermen can operate safely in the disputed waters.

Shen dismissed a report in yesterday’s Chinese-language China Times that claimed that Taiwan had recently rejected a proposal by Japan to resume the talks.

The newspaper said that the government had declined to engage in talks, which would be the 17th round of such talks if they were held, for three reasons: Japan had yet to acknowledge the controversy over sovereignty over the islands, the atmosphere was not fit to resume negotiations and the Fisheries Agency was not prepared for the talks.

“We did not reject the offer and communication on [resuming the talks] is ongoing,” Shen told DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯).

Taipei and Tokyo were scheduled to open the 17th round of talks on fishing rights early this month, but Japan’s move forced the government to “re-evaluate the situation,” Shen said.

“The two sides have held 16 rounds of talks, but have failed to produce concrete results. We hoped this time we can create a framework to discuss the issue,” Shen said, without revealing on a possible date or agenda for the talks.

Tsai urged Shen to return to his post in Tokyo as soon as possible.

“You can’t expect the prime minster of Japan, Yoshihiko Noda, to recognize the sovereignty dispute in public. There is no chance of that,” Tsai said.

Tsai said the government should consider Tokyo’s willingness to resume talks on fishing rights with Taiwan as an “implicit acknowledgment,” so that the two sides can normalize their relations.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said “there was no rush” for Shen to return to Japan.

Lin said the government should take the opportunity to press Tokyo more on the fishing rights issue while Japan is beset by internal and external problems.

“Japan is at its most vulnerable. If we don’t exert more pressure on Japan now, when can we?” Lin asked.