Sun, Sep 28, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Academics waffle over status of Tiaoyutai Islands

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The first day of a Seminar on the Tiaoyutai (釣魚台) Islands Problems clearly showed the complexity of the issues surrounding the territorial dispute over the islands claimed by China, Taiwan and Japan.

Academics joining the seminar yesterday discussed a number of tentative solutions to resolving the deadlock in the three countries' negotiations about the islands but found no immediate way out of the three-decade long territorial dispute.

Soochow University, the Chinese Society of International Law (CSIL) and the Chinese Society of Comparative Law co-hosted the seminar.

The Tiaoyutai Islands, known in Japan as the Senakus, comprise eight islets located northeast of Taiwan, about 102 nautical miles from the northern port of Keelung. The islands are about 90 nautical miles from the nearest Taiwanese and Japanese territories.

Shaw Han-yi (邵漢儀), a US expert on the Tiaoyutai Islands problems, presented a paper in the seminar hoping to "help all concerned parties to recognize the complexity of the dispute."

The territorial dispute over the islands between China, Taiwan and Japan "has constantly re-erupted and become one of the most politically and emotionally sensitive conflicts between the Chinese and Japanese since the end of World War II," wrote Shaw.

The origin of the long-standing dispute, said Shaw, can be traced back to the late 1960s when reports by a UN commission "suggested the possibility of the existence of large hydrocarbon reserves in the vicinity of the islands."

While some papers submitted to the seminar scrutinized historical facts and documents to justify Taiwan's sovereignty claim to the islands, Shaw recognized the difficulties for the three concerned countries to justify such claims.

"While most of the Chinese public firmly believe that the Tiaoyutai Islands are indisputably Chinese territory, few are truly able to clearly iterate the legal, historical and geographical reasons why sovereignty over the islands should belong to China," Shaw pointed out.

Despite the territorial dispute over the islands, Taiwan and Japan have, over the past few years, managed to hold negotiations about fishing problems around the islands, an official from the Fisheries Agency said.

The official attended a roundtable discussion hosted by Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who is also president of CSIL.

Japan and China have reached agreements about fishing around the islands. Japan wanted Taiwan to abide by the agreements but Taiwan's government declined to do so because of its own sovereignty dispute with China, the official said.

The latest negotiations between Japan and Taiwan about fishing problems near the islands took place in June.

Both governments have tried to bypass the territorial dispute over the islands when holding negotiations about fishing matters.

"But inevitably we would have had to touch upon the issue," the government official said.

Ma doubted the government would succeed in its talks with Japan about fishing problems before it settles the territorial dispute over the islands with Japan.

To keep the territorial issue over the islands alive, Lee Tzu-wen (李子文), professor from the Soochow University, suggested Taiwan deploy "limited armed forces" there.

Ma and Den Yen-sen (鄧衍森), an associate professor from the College of Law of Lee's university, both expressed their opposition to the idea of using armed forces to solve this or any other territorial dispute.

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