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  • Taiwan-Japan fishery pact shows peace initiative works: MOFA

    Taipei, May 3 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Friday that the fishery agreement signed in April between Taiwan and Japan reflected the spirit of President Ma Ying-jeou's East China Sea initiative, proposed to address the Diaoyutai Islands dispute in the region.

    Taiwan and Japan put aside differences and made progress in the efforts to peacefully resolve fishing disputes by signing the agreement, which deals with their respective fishing rights in waters surrounding the Diaoyutais, the ministry said in a press statement.

    The agreement protects Taiwanese fishermen's rights to operate in the region and expands the areas where they can operate, and is in line with Taiwan's interests and international expectations, the MOFA said.

    The ministry also reiterated that the government did not back down on Taiwan's sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands during negotiations with Japan for the agreement.

    The Diaoyutai Islands are located some 100 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan, and have been under Japan's administrative control since 1972, but are also claimed by Taiwan and China.

    The ministry said that since Ma took office in 2008, the president has seen the relationship between Taiwan and Japan as a "special partnership" and the agreement was a result of the 17th round of bilateral fishery talks since 1996 to try to iron out their differences on fishing rights in the disputed waters.

    It said both Japan's previous and incumbent administrations support Ma's initiative and recognize Taiwan as an "important partner." The Japanese government also appreciated Taiwan's aid in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster in 2011, the MOFA said.

    Signed on April 10, the agreement stipulates that Taiwanese and Japanese boats can operate freely in a 74,300-square-kilometer area around the Diaoyutais, according to the Fisheries Agency.

    This gives Taiwanese fishermen an additional 4,530 square kilometers in which they can operate free of harassment.

    Under the agreement, the two sides will also set up a bilateral fishing commission to deal with other issues related to fishing in disputed waters, mainly those near the Diaoyutais.

    Proposed last year, Ma's peace initiative calls on all parties involved in territorial disputes to refrain from hostile actions, put aside their differences, not abandon dialogue, observe international law and resolve the disputes through peaceful means.

    All parties should also seek consensus on a code of conduct for the East China Sea and establish a mechanism for cooperation on exploring and developing resources in the region, Ma had suggested.

    (By Angela Tsai and Jamie Wang)