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June 24, 2017

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Taiwan hopes fresh Japan fishery talks to be held in November

By Joseph Yeh--Taiwan hopes to hold the next round of fishery talks with Japan next month in Taipei, a high-level foreign affairs official said yesterday, amid the ongoing territorial dispute over the Diaoyutai Islands.

"So far both sides have shown goodwill to resume the fishing-rights talks that have been suspended since 2009," an anonymous official told Taiwanese media yesterday.

The Taipei and Tokyo governments both agreed to hold a 17th round of talks as soon as possible, the official said. The discussions may be held in November, the source added.

Given that a preparatory meeting was held in Tokyo last year, the official said Taipei may host the upcoming conference.

The timetable and location have not been finalized, with both sides still to reach a consensus.

The bilateral talks are expected to put sovereignty disputes to the side, so as to focus on discussing the sharing and joint management of fishing resources near the disputed Diaoyutais, the official said.

Taipei hopes to reach a resolution with Tokyo regarding clashes between Taiwanese fishing boats and Japanese coast guard vessels near the disputed island group, the official said.

Provisional Measures before Final Agreement

On the more controversial issue of competing sovereignty claims, both sides may find it difficult to reach agreement any time soon, the official said.

A temporary solution would be for both sides to jointly develop "provisional measures" regarding competing claims before any final agreement is reached, the official said.

"The primary goal of the next round of fishing talks will be to ensure that Taiwanese fishermen can operate in the waters near the Diaoyutais without interference," the official said.

Currently, Taiwanese authorities have demarcated a temporary law enforcement border near the islands. Japanese vessels rarely harass Taiwanese fishing vessels operating on Taiwan's side of the line, the official said.

Meanwhile, Taiwan is hoping to strengthen its cooperation with Japan in regional fishery management bodies, which are concerned with sharing fishery resources in the Pacific area, the official said.

To that end, both sides could sign an agreement or ink a memorandum of understanding.

Japan had previously proposed resuming the fishing rights talks with Taiwan in early October.

But the plan was derailed in light of escalating tensions between Taiwan and Japan after Tokyo's controversial move to "nationalize" the Diaoyutais by "buying" three of the islets on Sept. 11.

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