Officials and academics from Taiwan and Japan focused on the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) at an annual bilateral forum yesterday and could agree on only one thing — more discussion is needed on the issue.
In his opening remarks at the one-day Taiwan-Japan Forum, Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) said Taiwan and Japan shared common interests in the maritime sovereignty dispute and in many other areas, urging both sides to “cooperate to create a win-win situation.”
Taiwanese speakers expressed considerable interest in the controversial issue, which resurfaced after a Chinese boat collided with Japanese Coast Guard vessels in September in waters off the Diaoyutais, stirring up a diplomatic row between Tokyo and Beijing.
The islands, which lie about 185km off Taiwan’s northeastern tip, are claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan and could have an impact on Japan-China relations and Japan-Taiwan relations, said Bau Tzong-ho (包宗和), a political scientist at National Taiwan University.
Because China claims sovereignty over the islands through Taiwan — which it says is a part of China — Japan’s national interests would be well served if it set aside the sovereignty dispute and negotiated an agreement on fishing the islands’ waters, Bau said.
“That would deny China an excuse to intervene in the issue,” he said.
The Diaoyutais dispute could be the most important issue dividing Japan and Taiwan, said Nobuo Kishi, a member of the House of Councilors in the Diet (Japan’s parliament), but he agreed that handling it as a fisheries dispute could lead to negotiations with Taiwan in the future.
In contrast, it appeared that the Diaoyutais had become a more intractable territorial dispute between Japan and China, said Kishi, a member of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party.
House of Councilors member Naoki Kazama of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan said that while Taiwan and China both claim sovereignty over the Diaoyutais, Japan found that it was easier to talk to Taiwan about the issue.
Yang Yung-ming (楊永明), a political scientist at National Taiwan University who has served as a National Security Council adviser, proposed an “East China Sea Initiative” that called for all countries involved to pledge to handle the issue through peaceful dialogue.
Yang said China’s recent tendency to solve disputes using economic measures — such as banning rare earths exports to Japan — was a concern as it could resort to the same approach in future dealings with Taiwan, despite warming cross-strait ties.