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Fisheries Agency vows defense of Diaoyutais fishing rights

The government will strive to protect fishermen working in Taiwan's territories near the Diaoyutai Islands, the Fisheries Agency (FA) under the Council of Agriculture said yesterday.

The agency's remarks come in the run-up to the 17th round of fishery talks between Taiwan and Japan, set to take place in November.

While both sides are not expected to touch upon the sensitive Diaoyutai sovereignty issue during the meetings, they are set to discuss ways to redistrict overlapping fishing territories, the agency said.

According to the agency, the fishing zone of 12 nautical miles extending from Taiwan's coastal areas is not in dispute. But the 200-nautical-mile economic fishing zone extending from Taiwan's coasts overlaps with the territories of Japan, and the dispute needs to be resolved through two-way dialogue, the FA said.

The issue had been under discussion between Taiwan and Japan, but an agreement has yet to be reached. According to the agency, Japan had proposed the drawing of a “geographical middle line” through the overlapping areas, in accordance with standard international practices.

Drawing such a line would give Japan some 30 to 50 nautical miles of Taiwan-claimed territory. Taiwan, meanwhile, has proposed the drawing of a “proportional middle line” that takes the two countries' populations and economic activities into consideration.

Neither side has given up on its position, and a compromise has yet to be reached, the agency said. As a result, it is expected ways to settle the issue will continue to be a focus during this round of fishery talks, said FA Director General Sha Chih-yi.

“The situation with the Diaoyutais is that all sides claim that they are theirs,” Sha said. “The Diaoyutais are located between Taiwan and Okinawa Prefecture of Japan. Both sides lay sovereignty claims over the islands. But right now the most important thing is to ensure the safety of fishermen working in the area.”

According to Sha, the security of Taiwan's fishing territories and the protection of fishermen's rights are of utmost importance to the Council of Agriculture. “Taiwan fishermen can do their jobs within the boundaries temporarily designated by the government,” Sha said.

In the event of arrests or confiscations made by the Japanese against Taiwanese fishermen, the agency will pay 80 percent of all fines less than NT$1 million, he said.

No disputes have been reported recently by fishermen working in the area, he added.

Sovereignty over the area, thought to be rich in natural resources, is claimed by Taiwan, China and Japan. Known as the Senkaku Islands by the Japanese, the Diaoyutais consist of five islets and are located about 140 kilometers east of Pengjia Islet in Taiwan, 170 kilometers north of Ishigaki Island of Japan, 186 kilometers northeast of Keelung City in Taiwan and 410 kilometers west of Okinawa.

While the sovereignty dispute has yet to be settled, the Japanese government recently “nationalized” the islands due to what some saw as political reasons. The move immediately stirred up anti-Japan sentiment in China, prompting them to stage mass protests and demonstrations.

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