Taiwanese fishermen’s rights unaffected by islands’ renaming: JTEA

Photo courtesy of Kyodo News

TAIPEI (CNA) — The Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association (JTEA) assured Taiwan on Thursday that the renaming of an administrative district which encompassed the disputed Senkaku islands, called Diaoyutai Islands by Taipei, will not affect the fishing rights of Taiwanese fishermen.

Japan will handle issues relating to Taiwanese fishermen’s operations in designated waters in accordance with the Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement signed in 2013, JTEA’s spokesperson Takano Hanae told CNA during an interview Thursday.

JTEA is an organization which represents Japan’s interests in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties.

Despite the name change, Taiwanese fishing boats can still operate in designated waters agreed upon by both sides, Takano said, adding that Japan has no plan to unilaterally revoke fishing agreements and consensus reached.

Takano’s pronouncement came amid Taiwanese politicians and fishermen’s plan to sail to the disputed islands to assert Taiwan’s sovereignty and to uphold Taiwanese fishermen’s fishing rights.

Tsai Wen-yi (蔡文益), a councilor of Taiwan’s Yilan County, which claims jurisdiction over the Diaoyutai Islands, revealed his plan to lead a group of Taiwanese fishermen to sail to the Diaoyutai Islands in the coming days.

As to how far they will sail and whether they will land on the islands, Tsai said he will make further announcements on Friday.

Taiwan, Japan and China all claim ownership of the Diaoyutai/Senkaku islands, situated at about 185 km from Taiwan’s northern tip, 415 km from Japan’s Naha and 505 km from China’s Ningbo.

To minimize maritime conflicts within both countries’ overlapping exclusive economic zone, the Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement was signed on April 10, 2013, 17 years after Taiwan and Japan launched their first fishery talks.

Last month, Japan’s Ishigaki City Council approved the renaming of the disputed islands’ administrative district from “Tonoshiro” to “Tonoshiro Senkaku,” a symbolic move aimed at sending a message to China, which has increased its harassment towards Japanese fishing boats in the area, according to Ishigaki local officials.

The move, however, angered many in Taiwan, especially Taiwanese fishermen who fear they will be harassed by Japanese coastguards.

On June 24, Taiwanese media reported that a Taiwanese fishing boat was harassed by a Japanese recreational fishing boat and later by a government vessel on the previous day, citing its captain.

Regarding this, Takano told CNA that there could be some misunderstanding with the reported incident, reiterating the good economic partnership and common values between Japan and Taiwan.