Taipei, April 11 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou expressed satisfaction Thursday over the signing of an agreement with Japan on fishing rights in overlapping territories in the East China Sea after negotiations that took 17 years to resolve.
Progress in the talks, which began as early as 1996, has been precious and hard-won, Ma said.
"This marks the accomplishment of a historic mission," he added while receiving Mitsuo Ohashi, chairman of the Interchange Association of Japan, which represent Japanese interests in Taiwan in the absence of bilateral diplomatic relations.
Ohashi signed the agreement on behalf of Japan a day earlier in Taipei at the conclusion of the 17th round of bilateral fishery talks.
Under the terms of the agreement, Taiwanese and Japanese boats can operate freely in a 74,300-square-kilometer area around the disputed Japan-controlled Diaoyutai Islands, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan.
This gives Taiwanese fishermen an additional 4,530 square kilometers in which they can operate free of harassment by Japanese authorities.
Also during his meeting with Ohashi, Ma reiterated the government's long-standing position that the Diaoyutais are part of Republic of China territory.
The fishery agreement was reached based on a consensus between Taipei and Tokyo to put aside their sovereignty dispute over the Diaoyutais and to focus on their respective fishing rights, Ma noted, adding that the pact does not undermine the territorial claims of either side.
"Although we didn't have the chance to discuss issues concerning the sovereignty of the Diaoyutai Islands this time, we can do so when there is a chance in the future," he said.
According to the president, the signing of the fishery agreement demonstrates that his East China Sea peace initiative -- which calls for peaceful means to resolve regional territorial disputes -- has received the attention of the Japanese government.
(By Lee Shu-hua and Y.F. Low)