There is a wonderful little Japanese restaurant near the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in downtown Taipei, where the sensuously soft and ever-so-fresh nigirizushi makes one’s toes curl up. Every morning, the chef, Abura-san, goes to the fish market in Suao (蘇澳), Yilan County, to buy the choicest catches.
Little known to the outside world, the township became close to a household name this week after dozens of fishing boats sailed out from there to the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) to protest the recent purchase of three of the islets by the Japanese government.
There’s a reason why Abura-san travels the distance every day. In his opinion, it’s the best fish one can find and the fishermen there know where to go to catch it. This oft-ignored connection between our palates and the hard work of fishermen who every day toil the sea to bring us its riches should make us pause at a time when governments engage in sloganeering and protesters call for war over the disputed islands.
As former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), a rare voice of reason in the spiraling dispute, said earlier this month, what truly matters is the livelihood of the thousands of Taiwanese fishermen who over the years have laid their nets in waters around the islets, not who owns them. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) can say whatever he wants about sovereignty, for the majority of sailors who set off for the islands on Monday, practical issues — rights of access to fishing grounds — is what is at stake.
Some could argue that one way of resolving the problem would be for Taiwanese fishermen to abandon the disputed area and fish elsewhere. Unfortunately, things are not that simple. Why fishermen prize a specific area stems from years of practice and the careful study of fish migration patterns, seasonal currents and hydrography. In other words, some areas are better than others, and the waters around the Diaoyutais meet that requirement. One therefore cannot simply order fishermen, who have families to feed and children to send to school, to abandon all that.
Taiwanese fishermen oppose the nationalization of the islets not for political reasons or nationalism, but because they fear, rightly or wrongly, that state ownership would make it easier for Japan to prevent them from fishing in the area. Even before nationalization — made in part to pre-empt plans by hardline Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara to erect structures on the then private-owned islets — Taiwanese fishermen often complained of harassment by Japanese ships.
Discussing the crisis yesterday, Ma repeated the view that Taiwan seeks to resolve the matter peacefully and to co-develop resources. As Lee has pointed out, over the years Taiwan and Japan have engaged in 16 rounds of fisheries talks, which have yielded little result. In a statement on Sept. 13, the Interchange Association, Japan, issued a fig leaf when it said it hoped additional talks between the two countries could soon resume to negotiate fishing rights in marine areas, including waters around the Diaoyutais.
A true test of the Ma administration’s commitment to a peaceful resolution to the conflict, and of its genuine desire to protect the livelihood of thousands of Taiwanese fishermen, will be the quick resumption of fisheries talks with Japan. As Tokyo has signaled its intention to resume them, the ball is now in Taiwan’s court. Hijacking the cause of hardworking fishermen by turning it into a matter of politics, or scrambling fighter aircraft carrying bombs inscribed with the characters “The Diaoyutai Islands belong to us” (釣魚台是我們的) will not help resolve the issue.
The embattled Ma urgently needs to score a success right now. The chance to ensure the welfare of fishermen by resolving differences with Tokyo through rational diplomacy is an opportunity served on a plate.
Taiwan is beautiful — no doubt about it. In Taipei, the streets are clean, the skyline is gorgeous and the subway is world-class. The coastline is easily accessible and mountains can be seen in the distance. The people are hardworking, successful and busy. Every luxury known to humankind is available and people live on their smartphones. As an American visiting for the first time, here are some things I learned about the country. First, people from Taiwan and America love freedom and democracy and have for many years. When we defeated Japan in 1945, Taiwan was freed from Japanese rule. In
The ultimate end of a situation in which communists are in charge of a capitalist economy is economic depression, with China’s economic woes the prime example. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime has suspended monthly reports on youth unemployment, which had previously been at a record high, going beyond 20 percent and rising. It is often joked about in academic circles that when a national laboratory has made a great discovery, the institution will quickly call a news conference to announce it to the world, but when the research has been a total failure, the institution will keep it under wraps. The
Taiwan’s first indigenous defense submarine prototype, the Hai Kun (SS-711), is to be launched tomorrow and undergo underwater testing next month. It is a major breakthrough in upgrading the nation’s self-defense capabilities, and would make it more difficult for China to blockade Taiwan. Facing Beijing’s escalating military threats and ambitions of expanding across the Taiwan Strait, a domestically developed submarine was first proposed in the 1990s under then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). The Indigenous Defense Submarine (IDS) program was formally initiated in 2016, as President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office, with the aim of creating a fleet of eight domestically developed submarines. The
During World War II, German U-boats almost succeeded in bringing Britain to its knees. US Navy submarines saw their greatest success against Japan with the sinking of more than 500 vessels in the Taiwan Strait. The complete blockade of Japan with US submarines, US Navy aircraft and an aerial mining program destabilized Japan’s economy and created severe shortages of food, materials for weapons production and fuel. On April 2, 1982, Argentine forces used submarines to invade the Falkland Islands, a British territory, sparking one of the largest conflicts since World War II. In response to Argentine aggression, the British government quickly