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Taiwan, Japan sign agreement on fishing rights

Taiwan, Japan sign agreement on fishing rights

Taiwan and Japan on Wednesday signed a long sought agreement that defined their respective fishing rights in overlapping territories in the East China Sea and allowed an expansion of Taiwan's fishing grounds.

With immediate effect, the agreement "expands the areas in which Taiwanese fishermen can operate" without interference by Japanese authorities, Foreign Minister David Lin said at a news conference after the latest round of Taiwan-Japan fishery talks in Taipei.

Under the terms of the agreement, Taiwanese and Japanese boats can operate freely in a 7,400-square-kilometer area around the Diaoyutai Islands, according to James Sha, director-general of Taiwan's Fisheries Agency. This gives Taiwanese fishermen an additional 4,530 square kilometers in which they can operate, free of intervention, he said.

The agreement represents "very important progress in the cooperative relationship between Taiwan and Japan," Lin said.

The two sides also agreed to set up a bilateral fishing commission to deal with other issues related to fishing in the disputed waters mainly near the Diaoyutai Islands, he added.

The commission, an institutionalized mechanism, will comprise four members, two from Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Fisheries Agency, and the other two from their Japanese counterparts, Lin said.
The commission is scheduled to meet annually but will do so more frequently if necessary, Lin added.

The agreement did not touch on sovereignty issues, and both sides agreed it will not undermine their territorial claims over the Diaoyutais, according to Lin.

On the issue of fishing in waters within 12 nautical miles of the islands, Coast Guard Administration Minister Wang Ginn-wang said at the news conference that Taiwan's coast guard will continue to safeguard the right of Taiwanese vessels to fish in that range, as it is part of Taiwan's territory.

The agreement was signed after years of efforts, said Liao Liou-yi, chairman of the foreign ministry's Association for East Asian Relations, attributing the successful outcome to the close relationship between the two sides and Japan's positive response to President Ma Ying-jeou's East China Sea peace initiative.

The peace initiative calls for all sides involved -- Taiwan, China and Japan -- to shelve their differences and jointly explore the resources in the disputed area.

In Wednesday's negotiations, the Taiwan delegation was led by Liao, while Mitsuo Ohashi, head of the Interchange Association, led the Japanese side. The association represents Japanese interests in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties. It was the 17th round of fishery talks between Taiwan and Japan since 1996 to try to iron out their differences on fishing rights in waters near the Diaoyutai Islands, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan.


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