The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) reiterated Thursday Taiwan's claim over the disputed Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea after the Japanese government issued a protest to the ministry as it found a record number of Taiwanese fishing vessels operating near the islands that are claimed by both countries.
The Tokyo-based Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported a day earlier that Japanese coastguard authorities have found that a record number of Taiwanese fishing vessels have "intruded" into the 12 nautical mile limit -- a country's territorial waters -- surrounding the Diaoyutais, known in Japan as the Senkaku Islands, this year.
As of Dec. 17, a total of 310 Taiwanese fishing boats had been found "illegally" operating near the islands, which is three times the number of a year ago, according to the report.
The Japan Coast Guard has issued a protest to Taiwan over the intrusions via diplomatic channels, the report said.
Asked to comment, MOFA spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) on Thursday reaffirmed that the Diaoyutais are the inherent territory of the Republic of China (Taiwan).
Despite the sovereignty dispute between the two countries, according to the 2013 Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement, fishermen from both countries can operate in the overlapping areas of their exclusive economic zones (EEZ) in the East China Sea.
"We will continue to work closely with our fisheries agency to maintain a full grasp of the whereabouts of our fishing vessels, and will also engage in rational dialogue with the Japanese side over the matter," he noted.
The uninhabited Diaoyutais, located 170 kilometers northeast of Taiwan, are claimed by Taiwan, Japan and China, which calls them the Diaoyu Islands. They have been under Japanese administrative control since 1971.
Provisions set forth in the Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement do not apply to waters within 12 nautical miles of the Diaoyutais due to their respective sovereignty claims.
(By Joseph Yeh)