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  Global Views
One Step Forward to Peace
New Fisheries Agreement between Taiwan and Japan Is Result of Viable Diplomacy
Special Contribution
By Oscar Chung
Tiaoyutai Islands (֪) — Taiwanese fishing boats often gets under the water cannon fires from Japanese coast guards near Tiaoyutai Islands (֪), which has long been a traditional fishing ground for Taiwanese fishermen. The Taiwanese show thier determination to protect the nations sovereignty over the island also claimed by Japan which calls the islands Senkaku Islands ().

Taiwanese fishermen, particularly those based on the northeast coast in Keelung City, New Taipei City and Yilan County, had cause for celebration in April this year when a new agreement with Japan was announced that allows them to operate without interference from Japan in an area they had long considered a traditional fishing ground. For years, Taiwanese fishing boats have plied the waters surrounding the Diaoyutai Islands, a group of five uninhabited volcanic islets and three rocks located about 102 nautical miles northeast of Keelung in the East China Sea. The Republic of China (ROC) government has long maintained that the Diaoyutais are an inherent part of Taiwans territory, but Taiwanese fishermen operating in the area have been harried by Japanese coast guard vessels, as the governments of the ROC, Japan and mainland China claim overlapping exclusive economic zones (EEZ) around the archipelago.

The rights of Taiwanese fishermen to operate unimpeded near the Diaoyutais, or Senkakus as they are known in Japan, were safeguarded, however, when Taiwans Association of East Asian Relations and Japans Interchange Association inked a fisheries agreement governing the area on April 10 in Taipei. The new deal is expected to help fishermen along the northeast coast generate an extra NT$1.5 billion [US$50 million] each year, says Chen Chun-sheng (), who is chairman of the board of directors for the Su-ao Fishermens Association in Yilan. Area fishermen currently generate about NT$3 billion (US$100 million) in annual revenue, Chen adds.

Under the agreement, ROC-flagged fishing vessels have the right to operate in a large area that stretches from Japans Yaeyama Islands and Miyako Islands, which lie to the east of Taiwan, to 27 degrees north latitude. The agreed-upon zone measures about 21,575 square nautical miles and includes three areas totaling 1,400 square nautical miles that previously fell outside the temporary enforcement line patrolled by the ROC Coast Guard Administration. The pact also calls for the establishment of an ROC-Japan fisheries committee comprising two representatives from each country who will discuss issues such as conservation and bilateral fisheries cooperation. The committee is slated to meet once a year, with Taipei and Tokyo alternating as hosts.

This is a hard-won pact, as Taiwan and Japan have been negotiating fishing rights in the area since 1996. The two sides held 16 formal fisheries meetings and numerous preparatory ones through February 2009, after which no talks were held until a preparatory meeting in November 2012. In March this year, further preparatory discussions paved the way for the 17th formal meeting in April in Taipei, which resulted in a consensus and the signing of the fisheries agreement.

The agreement falls in line with the East China Sea Peace Initiative (ECSPI) ROC President Ma Ying-jeou (ة) announced on August 5, 2012. Ma unveiled the ECSPI at the opening ceremony of an exhibition marking the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Peace between the ROC and Japan. Mas peace initiative is meant to provide a viable solution to the tensions that have surrounded the Diaoyutais for more than four decades. April 2012 saw renewed tensions when Shintaro Ishihara, former governor of Tokyo, proposed the establishment of a private fund to purchase several of the islands that were owned, in Japans view, by a Japanese family. The ROC and mainland China immediately lodged strong protests over Ishiharas plan due to its sovereignty implications. To prevent further escalation, Ma proposed the peace initiative, which calls upon all parties to exercise self-control, shelve controversies over sovereignty, engage in dialogue and cooperate in the development of the regions resources.

The East China Sea Peace Initiative is based upon the principles of peace, rationality, reciprocity and symbiosis, says Huang Kwei-bo (Х), director of the International Masters Program in International Studies at National Chengchi University in Taipei. Its spirit should be disseminated widely both at home and abroad to win more support.

To address sovereignty concerns, the recent fishing pact deliberately excludes the waters within 12 nautical miles of the Diaoyutais. The agreement also contains a disclaimer stating that its provisions do not compromise the positions of either party in law of the sea issues.

The agreement we signed six days ago actually demonstrates how we can really handle a crisis situation to reach agreement without sacrificing each others territorial and maritime claims, Ma said on April 16 this year during a videoconference organized by the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University in the United States. The videoconference was chaired by Condoleezza Rice, former US secretary of state. The presidents remarks came in response to a question from Gary Roughead, former chief of US naval operations, regarding the situation in the East China Sea. In other words, I always believe that while national sovereignty cannot be divided, natural resources can be shared, Ma said.

Song Yann-huei (), a research fellow in the Institute of European and American Studies at Academia Sinica, Taiwans foremost research institution, notes that the Taiwan-Japan fisheries agreement falls in line with international norms such as those set out in the Charter of the United Nations. Song points to Article 33 of the charter, which says the parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice. Song also points to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which calls on states to make every effort to enter into practical and provisional arrangements based on the principles of mutual understanding and cooperation pending agreement on the delimitation of EEZs.

Song attended the International Conference on the Diaoyutai Islands Issue at Fu Jen Catholic University in New Taipei City in mid-April this year, as did Chang Meng-jen (), director of the universitys Department of Italian Language and Literature. While Song spoke on international law at the conference, Chang suggested that Taiwan, Japan and mainland China resolve differences over the Diaoyutais by looking to the encouraging example set by countries surrounding the North Sea. Chang notes that in the 1960s and 1970s, tensions over the delimitation of the continental shelf in the North Sea, which has abundant natural gas and oil reserves, were quite high between Norway and the United Kingdom, as well as between Denmark, the Netherlands and West Germany. But all the disputes were resolved without resorting to force. Cooperative models for tapping natural resources in the North Sea have been established through negotiations between these countries, Chang says, adding that the ECSPI and the Taiwan-Japan fisheries agreement are good starting points for achieving a similar outcome.

Ma referred to the North Sea precedent in his introductory remarks at the Fu Jen conference. He then unveiled a two-phase approach to stability in the East China Sea by calling on Taiwan, Japan and mainland China to engage in bilateral negotiations before moving on to trilateral talks. The fishing pact between Taiwan and Japan is an example of first-phase bilateral negotiations, as are Japan and mainland Chinas 2008 agreement governing natural gas and oil exploration and 2000 pact governing fisheries, the president noted. At present, Taiwan and mainland China are not holding negotiations on the East China Sea, but the two sides have participated in joint sea rescue operations in the Taiwan Strait since 2010, Ma said, adding that such joint efforts build a foundation for future cooperation and negotiations.

Just a decade ago, few could have imagined Taiwans present rapprochement with mainland China. Given time, the ECSPI could see Taiwan, Japan and mainland China make similar progress regarding the Diaoyutais. As you can see, we pay a lot of attention to playing the role of peace facilitator, so we reduce tension between mainland China and Taiwan and we also try to reduce tension between Taiwan and Japan regarding fisheries issues, Ma said in response to the question from Roughead during the videoconference. We understand we still have a long way to go, but at least weve made a very good beginning.

US Security Expert Alan Romberg Weighs In on the Diaoyutais

Alan D. Romberg is director of the East Asia Program at the Henry L. Stimson Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank based in Washington D.C. After he attended the International Conference on the Diaoyutai Islands Issue at Fu Jen Catholic University in April this year, Romberg agreed to share his views on President Mas peace initiative and the Taiwan-Japan fisheries agreement with Taiwan Review.

TR: Is the East China Sea Peace Initiative or the Taiwan-Japan fisheries agreement widely known or discussed in the academic or political circles in the United States? Generally speaking, how do American academics or politicians respond to them?

Romberg: Among those Americans who follow East Asian issues, both the East China Sea Peace Initiative (ECSPI) and the Taiwan-Japan fisheries agreement are well known. I think that the fisheries agreement has been particularly welcomed as not only creating a stronger bond between the Japanese and Taiwan economies, but also as making a genuine contribution to peace in the area. Indeed, I think it is a clear example of the principles of the ECSPI at work. Implementation will, naturally, be key. But the governments of Taiwan and Japan are to be congratulated for the significant achievement.

TR: President Ma Ying-jeou proposed a trilateral dialogue between Taiwan, mainland China and Japan over the Diaoyutai/East China Sea issue. Most think this is unlikely in the near future, but are you optimistic about this happening in the medium or long term?

Romberg: I am not particularly optimistic that any configuration of conversations directly addressing the sovereignty dispute regarding the Diaoyutai issue will be feasible. Just as with other sovereignty disputes, the existing claims are pretty irreconcilable. This judgment includes the fact that I dont see a prospect of this dispute being turned over to any kind of international judicial or arbitration process that could break the deadlock.

I think that the notion that President Ma has put forward regarding sharing resources is sound in principle, but we have already seen the difficulties between the Mainland and Japan in implementing resource-sharing agreements they have reached in the past. So, while the Japan-Taiwan fisheries agreement, if implemented successfully, will stand out as a model to be admired, I am not sure that there will be opportunities to see it replicated.

Meanwhile, what we would all like to see is Japan and the PRC restore some sort of equilibrium in their relationship over the Diaoyu/Senkakus issue that will put things on a reliably peaceful and stable basis once again, and that will allow their very important overall relationship [to] return to a more positive course.

TR: Mainland China obviously is not happy about the Taiwan-Japan fisheries pact. To what extent do you think the agreement is having an impact on cross-strait relations?

Romberg: I dont think the Taiwan-Japan fisheries agreement will have much, if any, impact on cross-strait relations. Beijing clearly was hoping either for cooperative or at least parallel efforts by the Mainland and Taiwan in this instance, but from the beginning President Ma made clear that he did not regard teaming up together with Beijing as in Taiwans interest. As I read Beijings reaction after the agreement was concluded, its concern has been directed more at Japan in the form of a warning not to violate Japanese one China commitments, rather than at Taiwan for concluding an agreement that is very clearly in the interest of Taiwan fishermen. Contributing to this attitude, I believe, is that Beijing obviously has noted that Taipei was clear in stating that the agreement in no way compromised Taiwans claim to sovereignty over the islands, which presumably eased the principal Mainland concern about what the Ma administration might do.

The above article written by Oscar Chung is provided from Taiwan Review.
http://taiwanreview.nat.gov.tw/




 

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