Taiwan and Japan still talking about talks on fisheries

DESIRE TO TALK::The two countries have pushed for the resumption of talks for over a month since tensions were raised over the disputed islands

Staff writer, with CNA

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 - Page 3

Taiwan and Japan are still discussing holding preparatory meetings before a 17th round of bilateral fisheries talks can take place, a Taiwanese foreign affairs official said yesterday.

Some officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have expressed the hope that the fisheries talks will be held next month, “but the time [for the talks] does not necessarily have to be in November,” said James Chou (周穎華), deputy director-general of the ministry’s Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

Chou said that Taiwan and Japan are still trying to arrange preparatory meetings that will decide the date, location and agenda of the talks on fishing rights in waters near the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) — known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan — in the East China Sea.

The official’s comments suggested a slower pace of progress than had been anticipated, but when asked whether the talks have been delayed, Chou said he did not sense any delay in the process.

Taiwan and Japan are both willing to sit down at the negotiating table to resolve the issue of fishing rights in disputed waters near the Diaoyutais, he said, without explaining what the stumbling block in setting up the highly anticipated talks has been.

The two countries have pushed for a resumption in talks on fishing rights for more than a month, since Japan first ratcheted up tensions over the Diaoyutais by buying three of the islets from their private owner on Sept. 11, sparking protests in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.

On Sept. 25, Taiwanese fishermen, accompanied by coast guard vessels, sailed more than 60 boats close to the Diaoyutais to press their case for fishing rights in the disputed waters, leading to new calls for talks on the issue from both countries.

Taiwan and Japan last held talks on fishing rights in their overlapping territories in 2009, but the talks have been stalled since then.

The islands lie about 120 nautical miles (220km) northeast of Taipei. They have been under Japan’s control since 1972, but are also claimed by Taiwan and China.

Taiwanese fishermen consider the waters near the islands to be their traditional fishing grounds, but are routinely chased away from the area by Japanese authorities when they venture too close to what Japan sees as its territorial waters.