Japanese lawmakers’ absence from a Republic of China National Day rally was not expected to affect a planned resumption of fisheries talks between the two countries, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Steve Hsia (夏季昌) said yesterday.
The Sankei Shimbun, a Japanese business daily, said the delegation was in Taiwan to attend National Day celebrations, but decided not to go after learning that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) would touch on the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) territorial dispute in his National Day speech.
The report speculated that the absence of the group, composed of 39 Japanese lawmakers from across the political spectrum and their aides, might affect the resumption of the long-stalled fisheries talks.
Hsia would not comment on the report’s claim that the Japanese lawmakers’ absence was related to the content of Ma’s speech, but said the ministry respected their decision.
He also dismissed the report’s speculation on the future of the fisheries talks, saying that the parliamentary group’s move should not have any impact on the issue since both countries have tentatively agreed to hold the next round of fishery talks as soon as possible.
Despite their absence from the National Day rally, the Japanese lawmakers did extend felicitations to Ma regarding the holiday during a meeting at the Presidential Office prior to the celebration rally, Hsia said.
Located about 120 nautical miles (220km) northeast of Taipei, the Diaoyutais, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, have been under Japan’s control since 1972, but are also claimed by Taiwan and China.
The long-simmering dispute came to a head last month after Japan nationalized the island cluster by buying three islets from their private owner on Sept. 11 in an attempt to reinforce its sovereignty claim.
In his National Day address, Ma reaffirmed his administration’s resolve to defend Taiwan’s sovereignty over the Diaoyutais, secure fishing rights and promote regional peace.
“Whether looked at from the perspective of history, geography, or international law, the Diaoyutai Islands have always been part of the territory of the Republic of China, and are among the islands that belong to Taiwan,” the president said.
Moreover, he went on, the waters surrounding the Diaoyutais have for hundreds of years been the traditional fishing grounds of fishermen from Taiwan.
“Our government’s patrol vessels will continue to protect our fishermen and defend our territorial waters in this area,” he said.