Taipei--Taiwan has the right to engage in oceanographic research within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in waters off the disputed Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) asserted Sunday.
The ministry was responding to a report the same day in the Sankei Shimbun, a Japanese daily, that Taiwanese oceanographic research vessels had sailed into Japan's EEZs around the Diaoyutais and Yonaguni Island as many as eight times without Japan's permission.
The number of such "intrusions" was the highest in the past decade, the report said, describing the phenomenon as the rising consciousness of Taiwan on marine rights and interests.
In its response, the MOFA attributed the dispute to the big overlap between the EEZs of Taiwan and Japan.
"While the two sides hold different positions on the demarcation of the EEZs, the Republic of China government has insisted consistently that its research vessels have the right to engage in oceanographic research within its EEZ," the ministry declared.
It expressed hope that the two countries can make reasonable arrangements they both can accept on scientific research activities within the overlapping parts of their EEZs through a planned Taiwan-Japan panel on cooperation in oceanographic research.
Taiwan and Japan agreed during their first meeting in a dialogue on cooperation in marine affairs in 2016 to set up the working panel for cooperation in oceanographic research.
Meanwhile, Wu Chun-chieh (???), head of the Department of Natural Sciences and Sustainable Development under the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), said the research ships noted in the report were engaged in purely scientific activities and that they followed approved routes in Taiwanese waters.
Three state-owned Taiwanese research boats, named Ocean Researcher I, II and III, have been tasked to engage in oceanographic research in waters surrounding Taiwan since 1985 when Ocean Researcher I was launched, Wu said.
Before each of their missions, the ministry confirms with other agencies that the planned routes of each ship are within Taiwan's waters, Wu said in response to questions on the Japanese newspaper report.
The Diaoyutai Islands, which lie about 90 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan and about 224 nautical miles west-southwest of the southern tip of Okinawa, are claimed by Taiwan, Japan and China, but administered by Japan.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel