Fri, Jun 10, 2005 - Page 3 News List

MOFA cautions Suao fishermen

TERRITORIAL CLAIMS The ministry's comments came after Suao fishermen mobilized about 50 ships to sail to the Diaoyutais yesterday to protest Japan's actions

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) urged fishermen from Suao, Ilan County to be rational as about 50 Taiwanese fishing ships gathered around the Diaoyutais and Pengchiayu (彭佳嶼) islets yesterday to protest after Japanese patrol boats chased several boats from the area the day before.

A Japanese patrol boat drove away more than 10 Taiwanese fishing boats on Wednesday, leading Taiwan's coast guard to rush to the scene, a ship's captain surnamed Lee said.

However, instead of aiding the Taiwanese fishermen, the coast guard forbade them from protesting the Japanese boat's action.

The protesting fishermen, many of whom had hung the national flag on their ships, did not encounter any Japanese patrol boats during their trip yesterday. They returned to Suao after the demonstration.

Lying 150km northeast of Taiwan and situated in the East China Sea between Taiwan and Okinawa, the Diaoyutais are regarded by the government as being under the jurisdiction of Ilan County and part of the nation's fishing grounds.

The fishing zone, however, is in an area that Taiwan, Japan and China all claim as being within their exclusive economic zones.

Under normal circumstances, the three countries would have to engage in trilateral negotiations to resolve their overlapping claims. Japan and China, however, have negotiated a bilateral fishing pact, leaving Taiwan out in the cold.

Taiwan started talks with Japan in 1996 but the two sides have not reached a consensus.

Gary Lin (林松煥), the director-general of ministry's Department of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, said at a press conference that Taiwan and Japan have conducted 14 rounds of negotiations on fishing affairs since 1996.

He urged Japan to deal with the fishing disputes in a practical manner.

"We have instructed our representative office in Tokyo to express our fishermen's appeal and anger to Japan," Lin said.

Taiwan's representative office in Tokyo has already sent a letter of protest to the Japanese Interchange Association regarding the fishing disputes.

A spokesman for Japan's foreign ministry told the Central News Agency that the Japanese government hopes to prevent similar conflicts from happening again.

Lin said the government understands the fishermen's anger, but that they must give the government the necessary space to negotiate with Tokyo.

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