Ishigaki mayor meets Taiwan fishermen before talks

Kyodo

Mayor Yoshitaka Nakayama of Ishigaki, Okinawa, visited a fishing port in northeastern Taiwan on Tuesday to exchange views with local fishermen before the Taiwanese and Japanese governments reopen talks on fishing rights in disputed waters.

Nakayama arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday for a four-day visit as head of an 11-member delegation. The first leg of their visit was Suao, a sister-city in Yilan County, where they met members of the Suao Fishermen’s Association to exchange opinions on fishing rights off the disputed, Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands, which fall under Ishigaki’s jurisdiction but are claimed by Taiwan and China.

Chen Chun-sheng, director of the association, said the sovereignty issue should not affect the relationship between Suao and Ishigaki.

“We hope both sides can put aside differences and share the resources together,” he said.

Chen led a flotilla of fishing boats to the Senkakus in September to assert Taiwanese fishermen’s trawling rights in the rich fishing grounds.

Japanese delegation member Kameichi Uehara, director of the Fishermen’s Association of Yaeyama Islands, said his association began discussing the issue with the Suao Fishermen’s Association last year and hopes to continue the exchanges.

Since Taiwan and Japan began talks in 1996, 16 rounds of negotiations have been held. However, the talks stalled in February 2009 over the Senkaku sovereignty issue and have not been held since.

Taiwan and Japan had originally planned to reopen the talks at the beginning of last month, but the plan was put on hold after Tokyo’s Sept. 11 effective nationalization of the Senkakus.