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Japan agrees with 'spirit' of Ma's peace initiative

TAIPEI -- Japan agrees with the basic concept and spirit of Taiwan's East China Sea Peace Initiative, Japan's foreign minister said in a statement released by Japan's Interchange Association yesterday.

According to the statement, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said that although some parts of the initiative and its “implementation guidelines” were unacceptable to Japan, Japan acknowledges and agrees with the basic concept and spirit of the proposal.

Gemba also expressed hope that actions that increase tensions between Japan and Taiwan will not be taken again.

He said the Japanese government expects an improvement in bilateral relations and has recently proposed to resume fishery talks between Taiwan and Japan.

According to the Interchange Association, which represents Japan's interests in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties, Gemba gave his message to Tadashi Imai, the association's president, at a recent meeting and asked him to relay it to Taiwan.

The date of the meeting was not specified.

The statement did not specifically mention the disputed Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea, which are claimed by both Taiwan and Japan and have been the source of much of the recent friction between the two countries.

Tensions have mounted over the Diaoyutais since Japan agreed to buy three of the chain's islets from their private owner on Sept. 10 in a bid to further assert its sovereignty over the archipelago.

Gemba acknowledged, however, that because Taiwan and Japan are in close proximity to each other, “unsettled issues” are sometimes unavoidable. He said the two sides should maintain rational communications and not let bilateral ties be affected by “isolated cases.”

The East China Sea Peace Initiative, proposed by Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou in August, urges all claimants to the disputed islands to refrain from taking confrontational actions, shelve their differences, observe international law and resolve disputes through peaceful means.

The initiative also called for all sides to seek a consensus on a code of conduct for the East China Sea and establish a mechanism allowing the parties to cooperate in exploring the region's resources.

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