Japan, Taiwan agree on fishing rights around Senkakus

April 10, 2013

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Japan made concessions to reach a basic agreement with Taiwan over fishing rights around the disputed Senkaku Islands, a deal that will likely rile China.

Under the agreement, which could be announced as early as April 10, Taiwanese fishing boats are prohibited from entering Japan's territorial waters within 12 nautical miles of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, according to sources. However, they can operate in the rich fishing grounds outside the territorial waters.

Tokyo and Taipei plan to set up a joint control committee to arrange the fishing fleet sizes of both sides, the sources said.

Most of the area that will be under joint control lies south of 27 degrees north latitude, east of the Japan-China median line and northwest of the boundary claimed by Taiwan. The area also includes part of the waters north of the Yaeyama Islands and southeast of the boundary claimed by Taiwan, a rich fishing ground that Taipei is eager to harvest.

The Senkakus, a group of five uninhabited islets and reefs, are administered by Japan but also claimed by both China and Taiwan, which call them Diaoyu and Diaoyutai, respectively. Taiwan also lays claim to fishing rights in waters around the Senkaku Islands.

China has called on Taiwan to form a unified front against Japan over the Senkakus issue.

"Compatriots on both sides of the strait must jointly preserve sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands," a spokesman for the State Council of China's Taiwan Affairs Office said.

However, Japan’s concessions on fishing rights to Taiwan have driven a wedge between China and Taiwan and prevented a possible unified front over the territorial dispute.

"Sovereignty cannot be divided, but resources can be shared," Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said.

Neither Tokyo nor Taipei plans to mention the sovereignty issue in the agreement.

The waters around the Senkaku Islands are considered traditional operating areas for Taiwanese fishermen. With the bluefin tuna fishing season beginning in April, a delay in the agreement with Japan could have caused an uproar among Taiwanese fishermen.

The part of the East China Sea close to the Senkaku and Yaeyama islands in Okinawa Prefecture is a prolific fishing ground that has attracted many fishing boats from Japan, Taiwan and China. That is also an area where exclusive economic zones claimed by the three sides overlap.

The lack of a fisheries pact has meant that many Taiwanese fishing boats have been seized by Japan Coast Guard cutters.

The fisheries talks between Tokyo and Taipei started in 1996, were halted in 2009, and resumed in 2012.

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