Fri, Jul 29, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Fishing talks open today

By Mac William Bishop  /  STAFF REPORTER

The 15th round of negotiations over fishing rights in the area surrounding the Diaoyutais will begin in Tokyo today, but will probably not yield quick results, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

However, the fact that Tokyo had agreed to the discussions was an encouraging sign, ministry spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said yesterday.

"If we don't achieve a result that is satisfactory [in this round of talks], it isn't important: we can continue to talk," Lu said.

The Diaoyutais, which are called Senkaku-shoto by the Japanese, are an island chain located roughly 200km east-northeast of Taiwan, and are claimed by Beijing, Tokyo and Taipei.

The dispute between Taiwan and Japan over the islands' sovereignty reached a head last month, when almost 200 Taiwanese fishermen sailed near the islands in an effort to prod the government into taking action against what they perceived as unjust treatment by the Japanese Coast Guard.

Taiwanese fishing boats which enter the waters claimed by Japan are often seized and held until their crew pays a fine to the Japanese government.

The issue received further attention when the Ministry of National Defense, under intense pressure from pan-blue legislators, dispatched a Knox-class frigate to the seas near the disputed area in an effort to demonstrate the government's resolve in defending the nation's interests. Critics said the trip was a provocative, unnecessary and had served only as a photo opportunity for Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and his cohorts.

The first round of talks over fishing rights near the Diaoyutais was held in 1996.

Taiwan's delegation in this round of talks will be led by Association of East Asian Relations Secretary-General Lo Kun-tsan (羅坤燦), Taiwan's de facto ambassador to Japan, according to a statement by Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂).

Japan will provide an official of comparable status, the Japan Interchange Association -- Japan's de facto embassy -- said, while declining to reveal the official's name and position.

Tokyo's willingness to continue the talks is seen as an indication of Japan's friendly attitude.

In an interview with the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan on Tuesday, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was careful to emphasize the healthy Taiwan-Japan relationship, despite the fishing dispute.

"Taiwan is Japan's best friend, and Japan is Taiwan's best partner in an economic, strategic and security alliance," he said, according to wire agency reports.

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