TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The third official meeting for maritime cooperation talks between Taiwan and Japan began on Thursday, Dec. 27 and concluded on Friday, Dec. 28 in Tokyo, Japan.
Despite several disagreements this year, including many reports of Taiwanese fishing vessels trespassing in Japan’s territorial waters, and the continued issue of the Diaoyu Islands, the two sides were able to come to mutual understandings on issues of illegal fishing, human trafficking, drug smuggling, and scientific research.
On Thursday, Chiou I-jen (邱義仁), head of the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association, and Mitsuo Ohashi (大橋光夫), chairman of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, as representatives of each nation signed two memorandums of understanding (MoU) on maritime affairs.
The first MoU was related to stepping up efforts to curb illegal activity in the region’s waters. Each country pledged to seek assistance from the other’s maritime security forces in combating drug smuggling, human trafficking, as well as illegal fishing operations.
The second MoU was to further cooperation in areas of scientific research related to “meteorology, geology, geophysics, ecology and environment change,” reports the Mainichi.
The maritime cooperation talks are the result of an incident that occurred in April, 2016, in which the Japanese Coast Guard detained a Taiwanese fishing vessel that traveled close to an uninhabited atoll called Okinotori.
The atoll is claimed by Tokyo as a Japanese island and their sovereign territory, although Taiwan does not recognize it as such.
The Tsai administration sought to resolve the issue through diplomacy after coming to power in May, 2016, and established what has become a crucial mechanism for managing and cooperating on regional maritime affairs.
Although the issue of Okinotori Atoll remains unresolved, the Tsai administration has determined that it will not take an official position on the status of the atoll at this time, reports CNA.
Both sides also agreed that for the time being, fishing in the vicinity of the atoll may continue, and that the issue will be addressed again at the next round of maritime cooperation talks, tentatively scheduled to take place in Taiwan in 2019.
Location of the Okinotori Atoll (Wikimedia Commons Image)