TAIPEI – Taiwan and Japan are scheduled to hold a third round of talks in Tokyo this week to discuss maritime cooperation, including fishing near Okinotorishima island — regarded by Japan as its southernmost territory.
Officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said recently that the two-day talks are scheduled to begin Thursday.
Sources familiar with the talks said Taiwan hopes to forge a cooperation agreement to help reduce illegal fishing by Taiwanese fishermen.
A memorandum of understanding on cooperation to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing would be important for Taiwan, which was placed on the European Union’s watch list for insufficient cooperation in combating IUU fishing in October 2015.
Since then, EU officials have visited Taiwan every six months to see how the Taiwanese government is addressing the problem.
During their last inspection trip in October, EU inspectors also expressed concern over the rights of fishermen working on Taiwanese boats, saying they need more protection.
Taiwan and Japan agreed to begin talks on maritime cooperation after a Taiwanese fishing boat and its crew members were detained for fishing in Japan’s exclusive economic zone near Okinotorishima island, located some 1,700 kilometers south of Tokyo, in April 2016.
The boat and its crew were released a few days later, following negotiations that led to the payment of a fine to Japan.
Both sides agreed in May 2016 to set up a dialogue mechanism to address the issue.
The mechanism is established under the framework of the Association of East Asian Relations, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry-linked agency tasked with handling relations with Japan in the absence of formal diplomatic ties, and the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, Tokyo’s de facto mission in Taiwan.
Besides fishing, other issues related to maritime cooperation include environmental protection, science research and emergency rescue. The last round of talks was held in December last year in Taipei.
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