Wed, Jan 07, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Talks with Japan on fishing rights to open next month

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The 16th round of talks between Japan and Taiwan on fishing rights disputes will be held in Taipei next month, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday, but added that the matter of sovereignty over the Diaoyutai islands (釣魚台) would not be discussed.

Association for East Asian Relations Secretary-General Peter Tsai (蔡明耀) said that since neither side would relinquish territorial claims to the chain, both countries had agreed to shelve their differences and focus on pragmatic matters such as fishing access to each other’s waters, access fees and maritime boundaries, all of which have been on the table at each round of talks.

It is unclear what level of representatives from each side will attend the meeting since the agenda has not been finalized, he said.

Tsai said there was some tension with Japan last year when a Japanese coast guard patrol vessel and a Taiwanese recreational fishing boat collided in the disputed waters of the Diaoyutai. No one was injured but the fishing boat sank.

The Japanese patrol vessel claimed the Taiwanese boat had been zigzagging on the water at the time of the incident and had not heeded warning calls. The anglers said the Japanese vessel had purposely collided with the boat. The Japanese eventually released the Taiwanese crew, apologized and compensated the captain.

“Taiwan-Japan relations weathered a storm last year [and] we are confident that bilateral ties will only improve from now on,” Tsai said, citing as an example an increase in cultural exchanges involving youths.

Last year, Tokyo invited 60 Taiwanese high school students on a one-week all-expenses paid trip to Japan and the quota is expected to rise to 100 this year. Taiwan reciprocated by inviting 20 Japanese students in 2007 and is also expected to raise the quota for this year’s program.

Talks on expanding direct flight routes between the two countries are also scheduled for next month in Tokyo, he said.

Currently, all Taiwanese charter flights are allowed to land at any Japanese airports not listed as a direct-flight destination. However, once the airport has been approved for regular direct flights from Taiwan, it can no longer accept charter flights, Tsai said.

Because of the political situation in Japan, Tsai said, former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe will not be visiting Taiwan in the coming months. Abe, known for his Taiwan-friendly stance, was reportedly scheduled to visit Taiwan early this year, but has called off the trip to try to help his Liberal Democratic Party keep a hold on power.

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