Japan is to resume long-stalled fishery talks with Taiwan by the end of the year to keep the nation from aligning with China in the territorial dispute over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), the Japanese-language Yomiuri Shimbun reported yesterday.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has pledged more than once that the nation would not ally itself with China on the Diaoyutais issue, but some Japanese officials believe Japan should move to ensure that any possibility of such an alliance occurring is eliminated, the Japanese daily said.
Japan is eager to mend bilateral relations that have worsened over the territorial dispute, the newspaper reported, but added that the talks are to focus only on fishing rights and not on sovereignty.
The right of Taiwanese fishermen to fish in waters around the Diaoyutais has been a source of friction between the two countries for decades.
Taiwanese fishermen see the waters as their traditional fishing grounds, but Japanese authorities have cracked down on Taiwanese fishing boats entering the disputed region since Taipei claimed sovereignty over the islands in 1971, the report said.
The crackdown, which has angered Taiwan, has continued because of the lack of a fishing rights accord between Tokyo and Taipei, it said.
Tensions over the islands were exacerbated on Sept. 11, when Japan nationalized three of the archipelago’s islets by buying them from their private owner, sparking a strong response from Taiwan.
On Sept. 25, a Taiwanese flotilla of dozens of fishing vessels, escorted by Taiwanese coast guard vessels, entered what Tokyo sees as its territorial waters to assert Taiwan’s sovereignty over the islands and the right of Taiwanese fishermen to fish there.
Japan and China signed a fishery accord in 2000, the report said, but fishery talks between Taiwan and Japan, which were initiated in 1996, have stalled several times without coming to a conclusion.
Talks this time are to focus exclusively on fishing rights, the report said, but a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the ministry hopes to enter into an “overall negotiation” with Japan, including fishery resources management.