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Republic of China (Taiwan) signs fisheries agreement with Japan
Date: 2013/04/15    Data Source: 公眾外交協調會

The Association of East Asian Relations (AEAR), representing the Republic of China (Taiwan), and the Interchange Association, representing Japan, held their 17th round of bilateral fisheries consultations at the Taipei Guest House on April 10, 2013. The ROC delegation, led by AEAR Chairman Liao Liou-yi, comprised officials from the ROC’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Coast Guard Administration, and Fisheries Agency under the Council of Agriculture. The Japanese delegation, led by the Interchange Association Chairman Mitsuo Ohashi, comprised officials from Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Fisheries Agency, and Coast Guard. The talks concluded with the signing of a Taiwan-Japan fisheries agreement.

While staunchly safeguarding its sovereignty and position on maritime territories, Taiwan reached consensus with Japan under the principles of parity and reciprocity. The agreement will protect the rights and interests of Taiwanese fishermen operating within a designated zone. It will extend their fishing area by an additional 1,400 square nautical miles (approximately 4,530 square kilometers). An institutionalized mechanism in the form of a Taiwan-Japan fisheries committee will be established to conduct consultations on other issues regarding fishing grounds, bilateral fishery cooperation and the like.

Taiwan and Japan launched their first fishery talks in 1996 and, over the past 17 years, have held 16 formal meetings as well as numerous preparatory meetings and consultations. By setting aside disputes and agreeing to share fishery resources in this latest round of talks, the two sides were able to make appropriate arrangements and achieve concrete results concerning fishery issues arising from the overlapping of their respective exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

During the talks, Chairman Liao reiterated that the Diaoyutai Islands are an inherent part of the territory of the Republic of China and an island group appertaining to Taiwan. The waters around the Diaoyutai Islands have long been traditional fishing grounds of Taiwanese fishermen, whose fishing rights should be accorded full protection under the law. In order to strengthen the cordial relations between Taiwan and Japan and to better ensure regional peace, stability, and sustainable development, President Ma Ying-jeou on August 5, 2012, proposed the East China Sea Peace Initiative in hopes that through concerted efforts the parties concerned could transform the East China Sea into a “sea of peace and cooperation.”

The agreement reached in this latest round of talks covers the fishing operations in the two countries’ overlapping EEZs, but did not touch upon the issues of sovereignty claimed by the respective parties. The ROC’s sovereignty extends to the waters within 12 nautical miles surrounding the Diaoyutai Islands. These waters are not included in the agreed upon designated zone.
 
Although both the Republic of China and Japan claim sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands, the ROC has staunchly adhered to its policy of “safeguarding sovereignty, shelving disputes, pursuing peace and reciprocity, and promoting joint development.” It will continue to stand by its claim and safeguard our sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands, yielding nary an inch. This government has consistently taken a firm stance on defending sovereignty and protecting fishery rights and will not compromise sovereignty over fishery rights; we shall continue to negotiate with Japan while setting aside disputes.

The ROC insisted that a disclaimer be included in the agreement so as to ensure that the provisions of the agreement do not undermine the ROC’s position on and interpretation of international law regarding its sovereignty and maritime claims, etc.

The Taiwan-Japan fisheries agreement will be applicable to a large maritime zone south of 27 degrees north latitude and north of Japan’s Yaeyama Islands and Miyako Islands, thus protecting the operation rights of ROC fishing vessels. The operational zone extends beyond the so-called “temporary enforcement line,” translating into a larger operating area for ROC fishing boats. As for the ROC’s concerns pertaining to other operational waters and issues, consultations will be conducted through the future Taiwan-Japan fisheries committee, which in principle should meet once a year.

ROC fishing vessels will be able to operate within the agreement-designated zone without interference by Japanese government agency vessels. The ROC government will continue to protect the legal rights of its fishermen by maintaining the existing environment within the areas delineated by the temporary enforcement line north of 27 degrees north latitude and south of Japan’s Yaeyama Islands and Miyako Islands.

Sovereignty cannot be divided or conceded, but resources can be shared. This concept embedded in President Ma Ying-jeou’s East China Sea Peace Initiative served as the groundwork for this round of Taiwan-Japan fisheries consultations. Through engagement under this fundamental principle, the two countries were able to reach consensus on the provisions of the fisheries agreement. The agreement resolved fishery issues that have endured for 17 years, thereby marking a new milestone in their friendship. It is expected that this achievement will further strengthen the special friendship and overall cooperation between Taiwan and Japan. (E)