President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday urged the Japanese government to respect Taiwanese fishermen’s rights to fish near the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) and said he expected the US to remain neutral on the sovereignty dispute over the islands.
“The Republic of China [ROC] government’s consistent stance is that we will defend our sovereignty over the islands and fishery rights in the waters and hope that we can handle the dispute peacefully ... The Japanese government has refused to recognize the existence of a sovereignty dispute, making it extremely difficult to start negotiations,” he said at a meeting with US representative to APEC Atul Keshap at the Presidential Office.
Ma expressed his support to Taiwanese fishermen who embarked on a protest voyage on Monday and came back yesterday, adding that he expected the US government to stay neutral on the issue.
“The waters around the Diao-yutais have been traditional fishing grounds for fishermen in Yilan and Keelung, and it is impossible for Taiwanese fishermen not to fight for their rights,” he said.
Last month, Ma proposed an East China Sea initiative calling on all parties — including China — to refrain from aggression, shelve their differences, maintain dialogue, observe international law and resolve the dispute by peaceful means. He also suggested that all sides should establish a mechanism for cooperation on exploring and developing resources in the region.
Yesterday he again urged all parties to consider the proposal and resolve the dispute as soon as possible.
“The US government has kept a neutral stance on the issue in the past 40 years, and we hope the US government would maintain its neutrality. We think it will help resolve the disputes,” he said.
Presidential Office spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi (范姜泰基) said Ma had a good grasp of the fishermen’s protest and was fully supportive of their protest.