• Kyodo

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Japan has agreed in principle to allow expanded fishing by Taiwanese boats in disputed waters of the East China Sea, Taiwan Foreign Minister David Lin said Wednesday.

“They are willing to extend the fishing area, which we hope will be clearly drawn in longitude and latitude coordinates,” Lin told reporters at the foreign ministry. “As for how big the area will be, that is the focus of bilateral negotiations.”

Lin attributed long-standing fishing disputes between Taiwan and Japan in the contested waters off the Senkaku Islands, known as Tiaoyutai in Taiwan, to the lack of clear lines of demarcation.

“We hope both sides can reach an agreement on the zoning of the operating area so the living resources and interests of the fishermen will be well protected,” he said.

Japan administers the uninhabited Senkaku Islands, which are also claimed by Taiwan and China.

Japanese and Taiwanese officials met in Tokyo last week — the second round of preparatory talks, following the first held last Nov. 30 — to prepare for resuming talks on fishing in the contested waters, agreeing to speed up the process to reach an early agreement.

Lin said Taiwan hopes the third round of preparatory talks will be held at the end of this month or beginning of next month.

The preparatory talks are aimed at setting the agenda, time and place for a formal meeting, which Lin has said could be held as early as spring if all goes well.

Since Taiwan and Japan began fishery 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 disputed islets.

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

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