• Kyodo

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Taiwan and Japan began their second round of maritime talks in Taipei on Tuesday to discuss setting up a cooperation mechanism that covers fishing near Okinotori, an islet that Japan regards as its southernmost territory.

Taiwan argues that its fishermen should be allowed to use the area, which it considers international waters.

The two sides have also agreed to discuss protection of maritime resources, scientific research and emergency rescue at the two-day meeting.

During the first round of talks held on Oct. 31 last year, they agreed to meet at least once a year and to establish two working groups — one on fisheries cooperation and the other on cooperation in scientific research.

Mitsuo Ohashi, chairman of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, said he is confident that they can “overcome difficulties and respond to our people’s expectations of us, even if (fishing around Okinotori) is an extremely complicated issue.”

Speaking ahead of the second round, he noted that it took 17 years of negotiations before Taiwan and Japan signed a landmark fisheries agreement in 2013.

Ohashi also said he hopes the two sides could advance the mutually beneficial relationship between Japanese and Taiwanese fishermen and improve their livelihoods and safety.

The two sides agreed to begin talks on maritime cooperation after a Taiwanese fishing boat and its crew members were detained for fishing in Japan’s self-declared exclusive economic zone near Okinotori, located some 1,700 kilometers south of Tokyo, in April last year.

The boat and its crew were released a few days later following negotiations that led to the payment of a fine to the Japanese side.

Taiwan-Japan Relations Association President Chiou I-jen thanked Japan for agreeing to discuss the establishment of a maritime cooperation mechanism.

“I personally think that the meeting has far-reaching significance,” he said. “Japan is willing to establish the platform based on the sound people-to-people relationship and strategic viewpoint.”

Chiou said that because Taiwan and Japan are so close to each other, they should make joint efforts to tackle problems relating to fishing, maritime law enforcement and marine scientific research.

“I believe through talks like this, we shall resolve the problems step by step,” he said.

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