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June 23, 2017

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Taiwan and Japan hold yet another exercise in futility

Taiwan's Association of East Asian Relations and Japan's Interchange Association finally held their long-delayed preliminary meeting for the 17th round of fishery talks in Tokyo last Friday. At first, the meeting was scheduled for July 12, but because of Beijing's strong opposition, it didn't take place. Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba urged Oct. 5 that the talks be held to solve the outstanding issue of fishing rights in waters around the Senkaku Islands, which Taiwan claims as its inherent territory, called the Diaoyutais. There were continued dilly-dallies, but the meeting was held at last at the Conference Room of the Interchange Association.

Preparatory meetings may be necessary, because the talks involve not just Taiwan and Japan, but also China and the United States. Beijing claims sovereignty over what it calls the Diaoyu Islands and Washington is concerned about the security of the first island chain of defense against an intended Chinese naval thrust into the Western Pacific. But any preparatory meeting is unnecessary at a time when Japan is undergoing another quick revolving door change of government.

Japan is all set for a snap legislative election in less than two weeks. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's Democratic Party of Japan will be ousted from power come Dec. 16. As the fishery talks are bound to touch upon the sovereignty dispute, a stand on which a new government must take, Friday's preliminary meeting was simply another exercise in futility. That's clearly understood by both sides, of course. But why should they hold the futile meeting?

For Japan, the preparatory meeting simply had to take place. Prime Minister Noda wanted Taiwan out of Japan's sovereignty row with China before he would step down by proposing to solve the Senkaku fishery issue. As a matter of fact, he wished it would be a feather in his cap as the outgoing leader and that's why he had tried what he could to delay the snap election he called. So, when Taipei said it was ready to comply after Genba's call for the resumption of the fishery talks, the preliminary meeting couldn't but be held.

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