Dispute over fishing rights unlikely to be solved soon – Foreign Minister Chen Tang Sun is convinced the next meeting between delegates of the Council of Agriculture and their Japanese opposite numbers would fare a little better than any of its 14 predecessors. They have met off and on over the past ten years to settle the question of fishing rights in the overlapping exclusive economic zones of the two countries. No agreement has been reached, however. And the chances are that the new round, probably to start very shortly, will not produce any result satisfactory to Taiwan fishermen.
According to international law, disputes over EEZs have to be settled by bilateral negotiation or international arbitration, like by the International Court of Justice for instance. No action has been taken by the Foreign Ministry to submit the dispute over the overlapping EEZs off the Taioyutai Islands and the Yaeyama Islands for arbitration by the court in The Hague. Taipei still claims sovereignty over the Tiaoyutais, which, called the Senkakus in Japanese, have come effectively under Tokyo’s control.
Fishermen in Suao in eastern Taiwan, who used to operate near both island groups, have been chased away, seized and fined from time to time by Japanese maritime safety patrols. Angered by frequent Japanese harassments, the fishermen are up in arms against what they believe are Japanese encroachments on their traditional fishing rights.
The anti-Japanese sentiment is very much in the air. Japan’s Interchange Association office in Taipei was tarred. In the meantime, the fishermen are resorting to “self-help,” threatening to seize Japanese fishing boats that may happen to operate in Taiwan’s EEZ. They say they have to take the law into their own hands, because the Coast Guard Administration and the Ministry of National Defense are unable to help them.
All this has probably forced the Japanese to agree to meet Council of Agriculture delegates in Tokyo again.
Are the Japanese going to make any concession so that an agreement of sorts can be reached at the forthcoming Tokyo meeting? Most unlikely. It’s not the Japanese way of dealing with an adversary who they think isn’t their equal. They will, submissively, when they face people who they believe are superior to them. That’s the Japanese way. Japan has said yes to almost every demand the United States made, to the chagrin of Shintaro Ishihara, ultraconservative governor of Tokyo who has co-authored “Japan That Can Say No.”
It has never said yes to Taiwan, which used to be its colony for 50 years from 1895 to 1945. It would be almost a miracle that Tokyo would ever agree to let Taiwan fishermen share what it regards as its exclusive economic rights over waters around the Senkakus and the Yaeyamas