TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The two-day talks on maritime cooperation between Taiwanese and Japanese officials culminated in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on maritime emergency and rescue cooperation on December 20 at Taipei's Grand Hotel.
Chiou I-jen (邱義仁), president of the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association, said at the opening ceremony on Tuesday that due to geographical proximity, there were likely to be collaboration as well as disputes between the two countries regarding fisheries, maritime rescue and policing, and even scientific research.
Chiou added the challenges could be resolved through dialogue on the basis of the profound friendship and common strategies between Taiwan and Japan.
Mitsuo Ohashi, chairman of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, said the Japan-Taiwan relations had seen a big step forward in terms of trade, investment, and cultural exchanges in the past year with the foundation of mutual friendship and trust.
Ohashi said the country looked forward to reinforcing maritime cooperation with Taiwan in order to protect fishing industries and fishery workers of both countries.
Neither the heads of the two associations made any mention of the controversial Okinotori incident in 2016, in which a Taiwanese fishing vessel was detained by the Japanese authorities for operating near Okinotori (or Parece Vela).
The Japanese government claimed the Taiwanese fishing vessel had operated in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), while the Taiwanese authorities argued that Okinotori was merely an atoll rather than an island and hence Japan did not own the EEZ of the surrounding area.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement released on Wednesday even though there remained disagreements, both officials from Taiwan and Japan consented to continue talks about the Okinotori dispute.
On the other hand, the two associations representing Taiwan and Japan signed an MoU on cooperation in maritime emergency and rescue, along with a consensus on continuous cooperation in fishery management.
In addition, officials of the two countries agreed that the talks would resume next year in Japan.
The second year of the talks on maritime cooperation between Taiwan and Japan was joined by Taiwanese officials from the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Coast Guard Administration, Council of Agriculture, and the Ministry of Science and Technology.
Similarly, the Japanese delegation was constituted by officials of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Maritime Safety Agency, the Fisheries Agency, and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
Both the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association and the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association are unofficial organizations established respectively by the Taiwanese and Japanese government. Formed after Japan severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favor of China, the two associations are considered quasi-embassies and their officials may enjoy some forms of diplomatic privileges.