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Gov't says US neutral on Tiaoyutais

TAIPEI--Taiwan believes the United States' decision to officially use the Japanese name for the disputed Tiaoyu Islands is unrelated to the islands' sovereignty and does not signify a U.S. stance, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday.

Under the premise that the U.S. says it does not take a position on the uninhabited rocky islands, the government believes the name does not imply a U.S. stance on sovereignty of the islands, MOFA spokesman Steve Hsia said at a regular media briefing.

The U.S. has called the islands in the East China Sea, which are claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan, the Senkaku Islands. The U.S.' official name of the islands has come to the forefront in recent days as tensions over the territorial dispute between China and Japan have escalated. Addressing the U.S.' consistent statement that the island chain falls under the scope of Article 5 of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Treaty, Hsia said that regional stability is the treaty's major concern and it is not necessarily related to sovereignty.

Despite not taking a position on the islands, Victoria Nuland, spokeswoman of the U.S. State Department, said Aug. 28 the islands are covered by the treaty because “the Senkakus have been under the administrative control of the Government of Japan since they were returned as part of the reversion of Okinawa since 1972.”

The latest flare-up over the islands came after a group of Hong Kong activists landed on the islands and raised People's Republic of China and Republic of China flags Aug. 15.

Four days later, Japanese lawmakers led a group of Japanese activists to the Tiaoyutais, some of whom landed on the island, prompting the MOFA to lodge an official protest with Japan. The incident also triggered anti-Japanese protests across China.

Lying about 100 nautical miles off Taiwan's northeastern tip, the Tiaoyutais are known as the Diaoyutai Islands in China and as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, which currently controls them.

On Yilan County councilors' plan to sail to the islands in October to assert Taiwan's claim, Hsia said as long as the process is legitimate, the Coast Guard Administration will do its best to protect them on their voyage.

Taiwan claims the islands come under the administration of Daxi Village in Yilan's Toucheng Township.

At the same news briefing, Su Qi-cheng, deputy secretary-general of the Association of East Asian Relations under the ministry, said Taiwan's Fisheries Agency and Japan's relevant agency are still discussing what issues to put on the agenda of the 17th round of fishery talks between the two sides.

The annual talks have been postponed due to fishing disputes since last being held in February 2009.

Asked whether it is possible to resolve the Tiaoyutai row by taking the case to an international court, Su admitted that such an eventuality is unlikely because Taiwan is not a United Nations member.

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