Despite a consensus to set aside disputes over sovereignty, long-delayed talks with Japan on fishing rights in overlapping territory remain stalled, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said yesterday.
Taipei “has remained in close contact” with Tokyo to exchange views on the possibility of holding the 17th round of talks to negotiate a clear demarcation of fishing rights, but “no timetable has been set,” Su Qi-cheng (蘇啟誠), deputy secretary-general of the ministry’s Association of East Asian Relations, said in response to media inquiries at a regular news briefing.
Japan set up its 200 nautical mile (370km) exclusive economic zone (EEZ) following its ratification of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1996 that included certain parts of what Taiwanese fishermen believe is their “traditional fishing grounds,” resulting in incidents of Taiwanese fishing boats being seized, detained or expelled by the Japan Coast Guard.
Amid these disputes, Taiwan and Japan initiated talks later that year to avoid increasing tensions that could escalate beyond fishing rights.
In the face of ongoing fights over the sovereignty of the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, and overlapping EEZ claims made by both countries in the region, a total of 16 rounds of negotiations were held by Taipei and Tokyo alternatively on an irregular basis over the years.
However, the platform has been put on hold since the last round of negotiations in February 2009 in Taipei, which saw both sides stick to their respective proposals to resolve the “cross-border fishing” issue.
“Although we both agreed to set aside the dispute over sovereignty on the Diaoyutai Islands and competing EEZ claims, fishery demarcation remains an intractable issue. We would rather not resume the negotiations unless we can reach a consensus on how to resolve the problem,” Su said.
Su said Taiwan proposed a solution — modeled on a similar approach Japan has used to resolve fishing disputes with China and South Korea — in which both sides refrain from fishing in a temporary demarcation of water, but the suggestion was not accepted by Japan.
Taiwan disagreed with a proposal made by Japan that seeks to draw a median line in the 110km distance between the Yonaguni Islands, Japan’s most westerly point, and Taiwan, because the demarcation line that divides the water between the two countries was not proportional to the size of the much smaller Yonaguni Islands and Taiwan proper, Su said.