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Taiwan, Japan sign two MOUs at annual maritime affairs dialogue

2018/12/27 21:50:37

Tokyo, Dec. 27 (CNA) Taiwan and Japan on Thursday signed two memorandums of understanding (MOUs) to enhance bilateral cooperation in tackling smuggling and illegal immigration, as well as in marine scientific research, during an annual Taiwan-Japan dialogue on maritime affairs cooperation held in Tokyo.

The two MOUs were signed by Chiou I-jen (邱義仁), head of the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association (TJRA), and his Japanese counterpart, Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association Chairman Mitsuo Ohashi. Both associations are responsible for handling bilateral affairs in the absence of diplomatic ties.

The two MOUs took effect immediately.

In his opening address during the one-day-meeting, Ohashi said the annual event is meant to enhance closer bilateral cooperation in maritime affairs.

He noted that in 2013, following 17 years of negotiations, both sides signed a fisheries agreement, allowing fishermen from both Japan and Taiwan to operate in the overlapping areas of their exclusive economic zones (EEZ) in the East China Sea.

Such a pact is evidence that both sides can accomplish a great deal if they work together, he noted.

For his part, Chiou said the dialogue mechanism is formed to resolve issues concerning both countries more systematically. He expected the annual event to last for years to come and benefit both sides.

It marks the third maritime affairs cooperation meeting between the two sides since the mechanism was launched. The first meeting was held in October 2016 in Tokyo, with each country taking turns hosting the event.

The dialogue mechanism was first proposed in the wake of a fisheries dispute in waters near Japan's Okinotori Atoll in 2016. Japan detained a Taiwanese fishing vessel, the Tung Sheng Chi No. 16, on April 25, 2016 near the atoll, prompting a strong protest from the then Kuomintang (KMT) administration.

The KMT government insisted the atoll could not be defined as an "island" as Japan claimed and was therefore not entitled to a 200-nautical-mile EEZ.

The administration later sent patrol vessels to the area in a move they said was aimed at protecting the rights of Taiwanese fishermen operating there.

In contrast to the KMT's stance, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government decided to resolve the issue through diplomatic channels and negotiations after assuming power in May 2016.

The new DPP administration has said it will not take a position on whether Okinotori is legally an island for the time being.

According to TJRA, both delegations were unable to reach consensus over the Okinotori issue during Thursday's meeting but agreed on continuing their talks in the future so that the two countries' fishing vessels are able to operate in waters near Okinotori.

(By Yang Ming-chu and Joseph Yeh)