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June 28, 2017

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Kerry applauds Taiwan-Japan fishery pact

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday praised a Taiwan-Japan fishery agreement signed last year, saying that the deal serves as a good example to promote regional stability amid escalating tensions in the East China Sea.

During his address the East-West Center in Honolulu Wednesday, Kerry touched on the issues of the ongoing maritime conflicts in the East and South China Sea as he outlined next steps in the U.S. Asia-Pacific strategy.

Reiterating the U.S. long-held stance that it has no position on questions of sovereignty in the South and East China Sea, Kerry said the U.S. only cares about how those issues can be resolved by peaceful means.

"We firmly oppose the use of intimidation and coercion or force to assert a territorial claim by anyone in the region. And we firmly oppose any suggestion that freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea and airspace are privileges granted by a big state to a small one."

The U.S. senior official said all claimants must work together to solve the problems through peaceful means.

"We urged the claimants to voluntarily freeze steps that threatened to escalate the disputes and cause instability," he noted.

Using the recent maritime pact signed between Indonesia and the Philippines as an example, Kerry said the deal shows "how these disputes could be resolved through good-faith negotiations."

"Japan and Taiwan, likewise, showed last year that it's possible to promote regional stability despite conflicting claims," he added.

Historic Deal

Kerry was referring to the Taiwan-Japan fisheries agreement that was signed in April 2013. The historic fishery pact solved a decade-long fishery dispute regarding overlapping exclusive economic zones (EEZ) between the two sides.

It also expanded the size of existing fishing grounds for Taiwanese fishermen and better protects Taiwan's rights to operate in the overlapping territories in the East China Sea.

Kerry continued by saying that the U.S. supports the Philippines in taking steps to resolve its maritime dispute with China peacefully, including through the right to pursue arbitration under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Kerry also said a constructive relationship between the U.S. and China is key to regional stability and that the U.S. is committed to avoiding the trap of strategic rivalry and will focus instead on constructively managing differences.

Kerry's Wednesday appearance concluded a five-day trip to Burma, Australia and the Solomon Islands, during which he participated in ASEAN and East Asia Summit ministerial meetings, bilateral consultations and wreath-laying ceremonies at war memorials on Guadalcanal.

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