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July 24, 2017

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Japan's call for calm is good will: MOFA

TAIPEI--The Japanese foreign minister's call for calm in dealing with "pending issues" in relations between Taiwan and Japan demonstrated good will, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Saturday.

The ministry was referring to a statement by Koichiro Gemba, released by Japan's Interchange Association Friday, that called on both sides to not allow "isolated problems" to affect bilateral relations and to make the effort to communicate and deal with problems rationally.

Though the statement did not mention the Diaoyutai Islands explicitly, the statement was clearly addressing the mounting tensions between Taiwan and Japan over the islet chain, which both countries claim as their territory.

"This is an indication of Japan's demonstration of good will," said ministry spokesman Steve Hsia.

Hsia's brief comment Saturday morning came well after the release of Gemba's statement at 3 p.m. Friday.

MOFA said soon after Gemba's statement was issued that it would make a formal response, but it announced at 11 p.m. that no response would be forthcoming, surprising the media.

Hsia said Friday that Taiwan needed to further study Japan's statement carefully before making a formal reply, while reiterating that the Diaoyutais are an inherent part of the Republic of China (Taiwan).

In his statement, the Japanese foreign minister said that it was in the interests of all parties involved to ensure peace and stability in the East China Sea.

Gemba said that although some parts of Taiwan's East China Sea Peace Initiative and its "implementation guidelines" were unacceptable to Japan, Japan acknowledges the basic concept and spirit of the proposal.

The initiative, proposed by Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou in August to deal with sovereignty disputes over small islets in the East China Sea, calls for all parties involved to shelve territorial disputes and jointly explore and share resources in the region.

Japan has long refused to acknowledge that there is a territorial dispute, insisting it has sovereignty over the islets.

Tensions have mounted over the Diaoyutais in the East China Sea since Japan bought three of the chain's islets from their private owner on Sept. 11 in a bid to further assert its sovereignty over the archipelago.

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