Sun, Jul 02, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Ministry urges Japan to revive fishery talks

STANDOFF The Ministry of Foreign Affairs underlined the need for the two countries to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution to their longstanding fishing disputes

CNA , TAIPEI

Japan should return to fishery talks with Taiwan as soon as possible to resolve the long-running fishing rights dispute between the two countries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

The ministry made the call in the face of a continued standoff between Taiwanese and Japanese coast guard patrols and fishing boats in the open seas some 292 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan over an alleged intrusion of a Taiwanese fishing boat into Japan's 200-mile (322km) exclusive economic zone on Thursday.

According to media reports, Japanese coast guard authorities sent a patrol boat and a reconnaissance helicopter to conduct a more than 24-hour chase of the Fuhsiang No. 16, which was accused of having crossed a "temporary demarcation line" while operating in the two countries' overlapping economic zones.

In hot pursuit, the Japanese patrol reportedly sprayed water and fired paint bullets at the Fuhsiang.

A Taiwanese coast guard patrol vessel rushed to the disputed waters, but Japanese authorities have refused to release the fishing boat unless it pays a fine of ?4 million (US$34,870).

Because of their conflicting claims over the Tiaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in the East China Sea, Taiwan and Japan have often been embroiled in fishing disputes.

The waters surrounding the Tiaoyutais have been Taiwan's traditional fishing grounds.

However, Japan has claimed rights over the area since the US handed over control of the island group along with Okinawa to Japan in 1972.

Japan has since often detained or fined Taiwanese fishing boats operating in the disputed waters.

The two countries have held 15 rounds of talks since 1996 but failed to come to terms.

They had agreed to hold a 16th round of talks in Taipei in March this year.

However, the 16th round of talks has not yet taken place because the two countries remain deeply divided over certain key points, including a lack of consensus on the scope of their overlapping economic zones and the area to be subject to common management.

A foreign ministry official in charge of Japanese affairs said the Fuhsiang incident has once again underscored the need for the two countries to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution to their longstanding fishing disputes.

"We look forward to renewing fishery talks with Japan as early as possible," the official said.

Foreign ministry spokesman Michel Lu (呂慶龍) said Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Katherine Chang (張小月) met with Tadashi Ikeda, Japan's representative to Taiwan, on Friday to express the government's "grave concern" over the Japanese coast guard's "maltreatment" of the Fuhsiang fishing boat.

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