National / Politics

Taiwan seeks agreement with Japan on scientific research in disputed East China Sea waters

Kyodo

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday it is working to sign an agreement with Japan governing scientific research in disputed waters of the East China Sea.

In a statement, the ministry said Taiwan and Japan agreed last year to establish a working group to discuss scientific research in overlapping exclusive economic zones.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry was responding to a report published Sunday by the Sankei Shimbun, a right-wing Japanese daily, quoting the Japan Coast Guard as saying that last year, Taiwan conducted the most unauthorized maritime research activities in Japan’s EEZ in a decade.

The newspaper also pointedly noted that the “unauthorized activities” took place particularly in waters surrounding Yonaguni Island in Okinawa Prefecture, as well as the Senkaku Islands, which both Taiwan and China lay claim to. The Senkakus are known as the Tiaoyutai in Taiwan and the Diaoyu in China.

The ministry said the government of Taiwan asserts the right to conduct scientific research in what it considers its EEZ.

But it further noted that Taiwanese and Japanese officials met in Tokyo last Oct. 31 to discuss establishing a mechanism for maritime cooperation.

It is meant to address maritime problems that have developed over the years between Taiwan and Japan, and to cover issues including emergency rescue, scientific research and fishing near Okinotori Island, which Japan regards as its southernmost territory.

“We hope both sides can reach a reasonable arrangement that both sides find acceptable,” the ministry statement said.

At the October meeting, the two sides agreed to meet at least once a year and to establish two working groups — one on fishery cooperation and another regarding cooperation in scientific research.

A diplomatic insider said that the two working groups have been established and negotiations are on-going. The official also said hopefully the first official meeting of the two working groups will be held as soon as possible because the fishing season has already begun.

In April 2013, Taiwan and Japan did sign a fisheries agreement to address a decades-long dispute over fishing in contested waters in the East China Sea.

Under it, Taiwanese trawlers are allowed to operate in what Japan regards as its EEZ near the Senkaku Islands, but the pact does not include what Japan claims as its 12-nautical-mile territorial waters around the contested islands.

As the 2013 deal addresses only the issue of fishing off the Senkakus, other maritime matters are to be dealt with under the dialogue mechanism for cooperation.