Japan, Taiwan agree to speed up proposed fishery talks in disputed waters

Kyodo

Japan and Taiwan held a one-day meeting Wednesday in Tokyo to prepare for resuming talks on fishing in contested waters in the East China Sea, agreeing to speed up the process to reach an early agreement, according to Tokyo’s quasi-diplomatic mission in Taipei.

Japan’s Interchange Association, which handles negotiations with Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic ties, said in a statement that it had a “constructive and candid” exchange of opinions with its Taiwan counterpart, the Association of East Asian Relations.

They agreed to accelerate the negotiation process and to meet again soon, it said. Their meeting — the second round of preparatory talks, following the first held last Nov. 30 — was also attended by officials from the two countries’ governments, fisheries authorities and coast guards, in an observer capacity.

The preparatory talks are aimed at setting the agenda, time and place for a formal meeting, which Taiwan Foreign Minister David Lin has said could be held as early as spring.

Since Taiwan and Japan began fisheries talks in 1996, 16 rounds have been held, but none since February 2009 due to a row between Taipei and Tokyo over the sovereignty of the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands.

The uninhabited islands are known as Tiaoyutai in Taiwan and Diaoyu in China, which also claims them and has recently been pressing its claim, even to the extent of sending vessels and aircraft near the territory.

Taiwan has proposed to Japan that a jointly controlled area be established in waters off the islands so that Taiwanese boats can fish in the restricted area, which Japan claims as part of its exclusive economic zone.

Taiwan and Japan had originally planned to reopen the 17th round of formal talks at the beginning of last October. That plan was put on hold after Japan, via a property purchase from a Saitama titleholder, effectively nationalized the islets last Sept. 11.

The move exacerbated the row with Taiwan and China.