Taiwan proposes international arbitration for Okinotori dispute

04/29/2016 05:08 PM
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President Ma Ying-jeou (left)
President Ma Ying-jeou (left)

Taipei, April 29 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said Friday that Japan's claim that the Okinotori atoll is an "island" violates the rights of fishermen everywhere and that Taiwan is not ruling out the idea of submitting the dispute to international arbitration.

Again commenting on the April 25 detention of a Taiwanese fishing boat by Japan in waters 150 nautical miles east-southeast of Okinotori, Ma said Japan has seriously violated international law by illegally expanding its waters and demanding security deposits from detained fishermen in exchange for their release.

Okinotori is only 9 square meters in area, equal to the size of two double beds, and cannot possibly sustain human habitation or economic life of its own, Ma argued.

Citing Article 121 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), he said reefs that cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own are not entitled to an exclusive economic zone.

It is therefore illegal for Japan to claim a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone for Okinotori, the president said.

The UNCLOS says every state and vessel enjoys six freedoms on the high seas, including the freedom of fishing, and Japan has therefore infringed on the rights of all fishermen around the world and should be condemned by the international community, Ma argued.

The president said he has directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to negotiate the case with Japan. If the dispute still cannot be resolved, the ministry should consider submitting it to international arbitration, he added.

He said Japan's practice has set a very negative example internationally and has seriously damaged the country's international image, and he urged Japan to stop arguing that Okinotori is an "island."

(By Amy Huang and Y.F. Low)ENDITEM/ls

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