Taiwan vows to protect fishermen's rights in disputed waters

06/15/2020 04:36 PM
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The Diaoyutai Islands. CNA file photo.
The Diaoyutai Islands. CNA file photo.

Taipei, June 15 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) assured Taiwanese fishermen on Monday that their rights to fish in waters surrounding the disputed Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea will be protected.

The assurance was made in response to the concerns of local fishermen that their rights to fish in waters around the disputed islands will be affected, after Japanese media revealed a plan by a Japanese locality to change the islands' administrative designation to highlight its sovereignty over them.

MOFA reiterated that it has expressed "serious concerns" to the Japanese side over the plan.

"The government is trying its best to deal with the issue in the hope that it will be resolved soon and that the fishing rights of our fishermen will be protected," MOFA said.

However, MOFA implied that the plan to change the name of the islands' administrative district was aimed mainly at China, which also claims ownership over the Diaoyutai Islands, known as Senkaku in Japanese, and harasses Japanese fishermen, citing Ishigaki Mayor Nakayama Yoshitaka.

Ishigaki, a locality in Japan's Okinawa Prefecture, claims jurisdiction over the disputed islands.

According to Nakayama, a similar bill was passed in June 2018 but was never implemented, MOFA said.

The plan once again came to the fore due to local residents' dissatisfaction over the recent increase of cases in which Japanese fishing boats were being chased away by Chinese government vessels in the area, MOFA said.

The number of such cases reached 30 last year and 10 so far this year, the ministry added.

Ishigaki city council proposed earlier this month to chang the name of Senkaku Islands' administrative zone from Tonoshiro, which encompasses central parts of the city of Ishigaki, to Tonoshiro Senkaku, drawing protests from both Taiwan and China.

MOFA further said that Taiwan's government will take the necessary measures to defend its sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands and to prevent any "third party" -- believed to be referring to China -- from taking advantage of the situation.

In addition, MOFA said that although an annual meeting by Taiwan and Japan to resolve issues related to fishing rights was postponed this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, communications between the two sides have continued.

MOFA gave its assurances that the operations of Taiwanese fishermen in the Diaoyutai area will not be affected, as rules on fishing operations agreed upon by both sides in last year's meeting are still effective this year.

"Related government agencies will protect our fishermen's rights in accordance with the agreement and seek to realize a goal of marine resource-sharing," MOFA said.

(By Emerson Lim)

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