TAIPEI--Taiwan appears to be easing up on its hard-line stance regarding Japan's recent acquisition of the disputed Senkaku Islands, although many Taiwanese fishermen remain skeptical.
The islands in the East China Sea are administered by Japan but claimed by China, which calls them Diaoyu. They are also claimed by Taiwan, which calls them Diaoyutai. The Japanese central government purchased three of the islands from a private landowner on Sept. 11.
The Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on Sept. 14 expressing hopes for improved relations, although it refused to back down on its sovereignty claims.
"We call on Japan to make sure that Taiwan-Japan fisheries talks will produce concrete results," the statement said.
There are fears in Taiwan that Japan's purchase of the Senkaku Islands may compromise the interests of Taiwanese fishermen. That is because "state ownership" has spawned concerns that Japan may step up crackdowns in surrounding waters, even outside Japan's territorial waters within 12 nautical miles of the Senkaku Islands.
"Who will guarantee that Japan will abide by its words?" asked Lin Yue-ying, secretary-general of the Su-ao Fishermen's Association in Yilan County. "Japan may have another card up its sleeve after the government acquisition."
To allay such misgivings, the Taipei Office of the Interchange Association, Japan--Japan's diplomatic mission in Taiwan--issued a statement on Sept. 13 that said: "The way Japan deals with foreign fishing boats in its exclusive economic zone does not change in the least because of the latest measure taken by the Japanese government."
The statement also expressed hopes for early Japan-Taiwan fisheries talks to negotiate fishing rights in marine areas, including waters around the Senkaku Islands.
"Japan's statement is an expression of goodwill," Taiwan Foreign Minister Yang Chin-tien said.
President Ma Ying-jeou also chimed in. "If the operations of fishermen in the Diaoyutai marine area are not affected in the future, we will then be able to recognize Tokyo's bona fide intentions," he told a U.S. researcher on Sept. 14.
After Japan announced on Sept. 10 that it would purchase three of the uninhabited islands, Shen Ssu-tsun, Taipei's representative to Tokyo (equivalent to an ambassador), was recalled to Taiwan as a means of protest, but Shen is expected to soon return to his post in Japan.
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