Diaoyu Islands

Taiwan would 'expel' mainland trawlers under Japan fishing deal

After signing fishing-rights accord with Tokyo, Taipei warns coastguard will protect its zone

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 April, 2013, 5:51pm
UPDATED : Friday, 12 April, 2013, 5:15am

Taiwan's fishery authorities say they would kick out mainland trawlers caught in areas covered under a new Taipei-Tokyo fishing-rights accord reached on Wednesday.

Maritime and cross-strait experts said Japan successfully used the fishing deal to prevent Taipei and Beijing joining together to defend their sovereignty claims over the disputed Diaoyu Islands, now controlled by the Japanese, in the East China Sea.

When asked on Wednesday by journalists in Taipei what Taiwan's coastguard would do if it were to encounter mainland fishing vessels in the waters designated under the fishing deal, the minister of Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration, Wang Jin-wang, said the vessels "will be expelled".

"All other vessels entering the territorial waters of the Diaoyus will be expelled according to the law," Wang was quoted by the China Times as saying.

The agreement assured Taiwanese vessels an intervention-free fishing zone in waters between latitude 27 degrees north and the Sakishima Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, and gave Taiwan an additional fishing zone of 1,400 square nautical miles outside Taiwan's temporary enforcement line, according to Taiwan's Foreign Ministry.

But the deal is believed to have been deliberately worded to avoid applying to waters within 12 nautical miles of the Diaoyus, which Japan calls the Senkakus. Tokyo, Taipei and Beijing all claim this territory zone.

The fishing deal was lauded by Taiwan media outlets, from the pro-ruling Kuomintang China Times to the pro-opposition Democratic Progressive Party The Liberty Times, saying Taiwan had successfully grasped an opportunity, amid tension between Taipei and Tokyo over the Diaoyus dispute, to help local fishermen fight for more benefits.

Professor Wang Hanling , a maritime expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the deal indicated Japan had violated its promise to stick to the "one-China" principle. "Japan was unwilling to talk to Taiwan over the fishing rights because they didn't see Taiwan as a country, just a province," Wang said.

"The deal was made because Japan sought to divide Beijing and Taipei, while Taiwan was willing to co-operate, because the island also has its own political goal."

Taipei-based political commentator Wang Hsing-ching said the deal will harm development of cross-strait relations.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anna Kao yesterday denied Taipei had sold out "Taiwan's ownership of Diaoyu sovereignty" in exchange for fishing rights, according to Taipei's official Central New Agency.