The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that it would not comment on the Japanese government’s plan to move troops from Okinawa to Yonaguni Island off Taiwan’s east coast, but added that it was confident that the plan would not affect the operations of Taiwanese fishermen.
“Our government’s stance is that we will not comment on Japan’s plan, as it is their internal affair,” Peter Tsai (蔡明耀), secretary-general of the ministry’s Association of East Asian Relations, said at a regular press briefing.
“As to the concern in some quarters that the plan could affect the operations of our fishermen in the area, my personal view is that it will not,” Tsai said.
Matters pertaining to foreign ships in the Yonaguni Island area fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan and the Japan Coast Guard, he said.
However, the foreign ministry would keep a close eye on developments in the area, he added.
The Japanese government is reportedly considering dispatching troops to Yonaguni Island in response to requests by residents there.
Some reports have also stated that the US is mulling sending troops to Yonaguni as well, but Tsai said that was unlikely, as Yonaguni Island is not as strategically important as Okinawa. In addition, the US military base in Naha, Okinawa, can cover all of its defense and reconnaissance missions in the region.
Yonaguni Island, which has a population of 1,700, lies 111km from the east coast of Hualien County and is close to the controversial Diaoyutai Islands, over which Taiwan, Japan and China all claim sovereignty.
Taiwan and Japan concluded their 16th round of fisheries talks in February after a hiatus of nearly four years in an effort to resolve fishing rights issues and disputes in the Diaoyutai Islands, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japanese.