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MOFA summons Japan officials over Tiaoyutais dispute

The China Post news staff and CNA--Foreign Minister Timothy Yang reiterated yesterday Taiwan's sovereignty over the Tiaoyutai Islands and said his ministry has summoned Japanese officials stationed in Taiwan to stress Taiwan's stance.

Yang said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) summoned officials of Japan's Interchange Association to express Taiwan's “serious concerns” with Japan's move to undermine Taiwan's sovereignty over the islands.

The Interchange Association is the Japanese quasi-official organization that deals with Taiwan-Japan exchanges in the absence of bilateral diplomatic ties.

Yang was responding to reports that eight members of parliament from the Tokyo area sailed toward the islands the previous day to investigate the local fishing situation as part of a plan to buy the islands. None of them set foot on any of the uninhabited islands that make up the Tiaoyutai archipelago.

The proposed purchase refers to remarks made by Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara in mid-April that Tokyo has decided to buy the islands.

Japanese media reported on Tuesday that airplanes belonging to Japan's Self-Defense Air Force spotted a Taiwanese Coast Guard vessel entering the territorial waters of the Tiaoyutais, which is known as the Senkakus in Japan.

The Taiwanese Coast Guard ship lingered for about half an hour before leaving the disputed island group, which is located roughly 170 kilometers northeast of Taiwan proper, and is under the administration of Taiwan's Yilan County Government.

The appearance of the ship in the area was interpreted by some as a response to the recent visit to the waters by the Tokyo City Council members, although officials at the Coast Guard Administration in Taipei did not comment on the ship's activities yesterday.

The Japan Coast Guard yesterday demanded that the Taiwanese coastal patrol boat leave the waters around the islands, prompting Japan to issue a formal protest that was rejected by MOFA.

Yang said the archipelago is the inherited territory of Taiwan, but that MOFA is willing to shelve the dispute and launch a joint venture with Japan to survey the area's oceanic resources.

The MOFA on Tuesday protested the trip of Tokyo City Council members to the waters off the contested Tiaoyutai Islands.

The ministry said it had called on Japan's representative office in Taiwan to lodge an official diplomatic protest against the unilateral activity of some Japanese to tour the Tiaoyutai Archipelago.

The MOFA reiterated that the Tiaoyutais are an integral part of the Republic of China's (R.O.C.) territory, and that its government opposes and will not accept any attempts to infringe on the nation's sovereignty over the archipelago.

It urged all people or parties in Japan not to take any actions or make comments that could interfere with the R.O.C.'s sovereignty over the islands and affect the friendly relations between the two nations.

The ministry reaffirmed the R.O.C. government's four principles in the official policy of retaining the sovereignty, shelving disputes, peaceful and reciprocal actions, and joint development of the resources of the islands.

Taiwan, mainland China, and Japan all make persistent claims of sovereignty over the uninhabited Tiaoyutais, meaning “angler's platform” in Chinese language, which has long been part of Taiwan's traditional fishing grounds.

In more recent years, many believe there are rich gas and oil reserves in the area.

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