An annual Taiwan-Japan maritime meeting opened yesterday in Taipei to advance mutual understanding and facilitate discussion on maritime safety, scientific research, ocean protection and fisheries.
Taiwan-Japan Relations Association President Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) and his Japanese counterpart, Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association Chairman Mitsuo Ohashi, opened the event at the Grand Hotel with a handshake and brief speeches before proceeding to a closed-door meeting with about 60 participants.
This year marks the fourth maritime affairs meeting between the two nations since the mechanism was first introduced in Tokyo in 2016, with each country taking turns hosting the event.
“We cherish platforms like this very much,” Chiou said in his remarks, adding that the trust-based mechanisms established over the past few years — including the maritime affairs meeting and the Taiwan-Japan Commission on Cooperation in Third Country Markets — have deepened bilateral exchanges and understanding.
However, some issues — that are “neither major nor minor” — remain to be solved based on the collaboration of Taiwanese and Japanese experts, he said.
Proper handling can enhance common interests, whereas poor handling could result in “unnecessary unpleasantness” between the two countries, he added.
Ohashi said in his remarks that a meeting on Taiwan-Japan economic and trade relations and one on emerging markets were held in Tokyo just last month, and seeing the fourth maritime affairs meeting begin gave him a sense of excitement.
Since its establishment, the meeting has gradually turned several conversations into action, Ohashi said, citing two cooperation agreements that were signed last year, one on joint maritime surveys and another on illegal smuggling.
Formidable challenges can be overcome and the expectations of both nations can be met, as long as both can see the big picture, Ohashi added.
Japan and Taiwan have fundamental values in common, as well as close economic ties and frequent personnel exchanges, Ohashi said, adding that personnel exchanges are expected to reach a high this year.
The purpose of this year’s meeting is to maintain good communication, not to sign any memorandums of understanding, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs source said.
Reportedly, Taiwanese officials voiced opinions during the meeting on the Okinotori issue, the incident that prompted the dialogue mechanism to be established.
In April 2016, the Tung Sheng Chi No. 16, a Taiwanese fishing vessel, was seized by the Japan Coast Guard when it was operating in the waters surrounding Okinotori, an area which Taiwan and Japan interpret differently.
Japan classifies Okinotori as its own island, with a 200 nautical mile (370km) exclusive economic zone around it, but there is no international consensus on whether Okinotori is an island or a reef.
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