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July 28, 2017

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Japan island purchase draws 'severe protest'

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry yesterday issued a strong protest to Japan over the latter's decision to purchase several disputed islets in the East China Sea that are also claimed by Taipei.

"We lodged a severe protest over Tokyo's so-called move to nationalize the Tiaoyutai Islands, which has seriously infringed on Taiwan's sovereignty, jeopardized bilateral ties and escalated regional conflicts," Foreign Minister Timothy Yang said at an emergency press conference yesterday in Taipei.

"We strongly demand Japan to immediately stop all action to undermine Taiwan's territorial sovereignty and revoke its illegal purchase of the islets," he said.

"If Japan insists on going its own way, it will bear all the serious consequences that follow," the minister added.

To protest the purchase, Yang said he has summoned Japanese envoy to Taiwan, Sumio Tarui (樽井澄夫), yesterday morning after Tokyo reportedly signed a deal with a private owner of the three islets in the Taioyutai Island chain for 2.05 billion Japanese yen earlier yesterday.

Envoy to Return ASAP: Yang

The minister said he has also asked the country's representative to Japan, Shen Ssu-tsun (沈斯淳), to simultaneously issue a protest in Tokyo regarding Japan's purchase of the three islets.

Yang also asked Shen to return to Taipei as soon as possible to explain the situation to local officials. Shen may arrive in Taiwan today at the soonest, Yang said.

Meanwhile, the foreign minister reiterated that Taiwan does not recognize any unilateral action launched by the Japanese government to nationalize the islands.

Yang added that from geological, historical as well as international law perspectives, the Tiaoyutais, situated on the continental shelf in the East China Sea, are an inherent part of the Republic of China's territory.

The foreign minister made the remarks after the Japanese government officially singed a deal to buy three uninhabited islands in the Taioyutais from a private Japanese family that it recognizes as the owner.

Aside from Taiwan, mainland China also claims the Tiaoyutais, which Japan calls the Senkaku Islands.

Speaking at yesterday's press conference, Yang said he has relayed Taiwan's strong protest to Tarui during their meeting, which lasted about 50 minutes from 10 to 11 a.m. yesterday at the ministry's headquarters in Taipei.

In response, the Tokyo representative said his government's decision to nationalize the islands was aimed "to maintain the islands peacefully and stably," according to Yang.

The Japanese envoy also said his government does not wish the issue to affect the cordial ties between Taipei and Tokyo, the minister said.

To peacefully resolve the disputes, Yang yesterday urged the Japanese government to make a positive response to the East China Sea Peace Initiative President Ma Ying-jeou previously put forward last month.

The proposal called for all claimants to shelve their differences, pursue peace and reciprocity and jointly explore resources in the area to resolve the sovereignty dispute over the Tiaoyutais peacefully.

Fishery Talks

  When asked if the sovereignty dispute would affect the bilateral fishing rights negotiations between Taiwan and Japan, Yang said yesterday that the exact date for the talks has yet to be decided, but both sides are willing to negotiate over the issue by putting the sovereignty dispute aside first.

"We would like to see the Japanese side show some goodwill in the upcoming talks by recognizing the rights for Taiwanese fishermen to operate in the disputed seas," Yang noted.

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