Tokyo/Washington, Aug. 7 (CNA) Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said Tuesday that his country is open to promoting cooperation in the East China Sea region, but he reiterated Japan's sovereignty over the Tiaoyutai Islands, known in Japanese as the Senkakus.
To maintain peace and stability in the East China Sea, it is important to promote a cooperation plan, Gemba said at a press conference in Tokyo in response to a question about the East China Sea Peace Initiative proposed by President Ma Ying-jeou Aug. 5.
Ma's plan advocates establishing a code of conduct for the East China Sea and cooperating on the development of the region's resources as a way of getting around territorial disputes, especially competing claims over the Tiaoyutai Islands.
Gemba described the islands as an inherent part of Japan and said that "Japan does not accept Taiwan's claim of sovereignty over the archipelago."
He noted, however that his government hopes the friendly relations between Japan and Taiwan will not be hampered by the disputes.
"It's very important to promote a cooperation plan for the sake of peace and stability in the East China Sea," he said.
Gemba said that although "no concrete cooperation projects are available at the moment, the possibility of various cooperation plans will not be ruled out as long as Taiwan does not insist on sovereignty over the islands."
Responding to Gemba's comments, Foreign Minister Timothy Yang reiterated the country's sovereignty over the islands.
Geographically, the islands are closer to Taiwan -- only 102 nautical miles from Keelung -- than to Japan, and Taiwanese fishermen have traditionally been active in the region, Yang said.
Taiwan is fully aware of the territorial disputes and differences, however, and understands that these differences cannot be resolved in the short term, which is why Taiwan proposed the pragmatic East China Sea Peace Initiative, Yang explained.
Taiwan hopes that other countries can shelve their differences and adopt a pragmatic attitude in resolving the issue, he said.
Yang said Taiwan hopes the East China Sea disputes can be resolved in a manner similar to the resolution of tension in the North Sea --through peaceful development and the sharing of resources.
The initiative proposed by Taiwan calls on all parties involved in territorial disputes to refrain from hostile action, put aside differences, not abandon dialogue, observe international law and resolve the dispute through peaceful means.
The initiative comes at a time when Japan is seeking to "nationalize" the Tiaoyutais, known as the Diaoyutai Islands in China and the Senkaku Islands in Japan.
Competing territorial claims over the islands have been made by Taiwan, Japan and China.
As for the United States' stance on the issue, a State Department spokesman said in an e-mail to CNA that the U.S. "does not take a position on the question of the ultimate sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands. We expect the claimants to the Senkakus to resolve the issue through peaceful means and among themselves."
(By Tony Liao, Yang Ming-chu, Chen Pei-huang and C.J. Lin)