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President proposes international arbitration on Okinotori dispute

2016/05/06 19:29

President Ma Ying-jeou

Taipei, May 6 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) reiterated Friday during a meeting with a visiting Japanese politician Taiwan's hope of seeking international arbitration on the Okinotori atoll dispute.

During his meeting with Nobuo Kishi, a member of Japan's House of Councillors, the president said that if Taiwan and Japan cannot solve their dispute over the issue, the two sides should submit the dispute to international mediation and arbitration.

Relations between the Republic of China and Japan have been the best they have ever been over the past eight years since the two countries severed formal diplomatic ties in 1972, Ma said.

However, Japan's recent detention of the Taiwanese fishing boat the Tung Sheng Chi No. 16, "could create some negative effects on this relationship," Ma said.

He noted that after the Taiwanese boat was detained by the Japanese coast guard near Okinotori atoll April 25, Japan demanded a security deposit to release the boat and its crew, and handcuffed and strip-searched the boat captain.

"The Taiwanese people are shocked and angered by these actions," Ma said.

Okinotori is only 9 square meters in area and its two reefs are merely 16 centimeters above sea level, which means that it has no fresh water to sustain human habitation or economic life of its own, Ma pointed out.

He cited Article 121 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as saying that reefs that cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own are not entitled to an exclusive economic zone.

Despite this, Japan claims a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone around the outcrops.

Taiwan has sent patrol vessels into international waters near Okinotori after the incident to protect its fishermen's rights.

With official vessels from both Taiwan and Japan near Okinotori, Ma said he hopes that the two sides will restrain themselves and avoid conflict that could affect the friendly relations between the two countries.

(By Hsieh Chia-chen and Christie Chen)ENDITEM/J