Taipei, Taiwan's delegation and their Japanese counterparts began a two-day dialogue on maritime affairs cooperation Tuesday in Taipei, during which discussions on marine resources conservation, marine scientific research, emergency and rescue operations are expected.
However, the most contentious part of the annual meeting is expected to be whether Taiwanese fishermen can operate freely around Japan's uninhabited Okinotori Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, an issue on which the two sides failed to reach consensus at previous meetings.
During his opening remarks at the meeting, Chiou I-jen , head of the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association (TJRA), which handles bilateral affairs in the absence of diplomatic ties, said both countries shared many challenges relating to maritime cooperation.
However, Chiou said he expected the dialogue mechanism, would facilitate the resolution of disputes and misunderstandings.
Echoing Chiou's view, Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association Chairman Mitsuo Ohashi, speaking on behalf of the Japanese delegation, said based on the strong friendship and mutual trust between Japan and Taiwan, "ultimately all obstacles will be resolved" through dialogue.
This is the second time a maritime affairs cooperation meeting has been held since the mechanism was launched. The first meeting was held in Oct. 2016 in Tokyo.
The dialogue mechanism was proposed in the wake of a fisheries dispute in the waters near Japan's Okinotori Atoll in 2016.
Japan detained a Taiwanese fishing vessel the Tung Sheng Chi No. 16 on April 25, 2016 near the atoll, prompting a strong protest from the then-ruling Kuomintang (KMT) administration.
The KMT government insisted the atoll was not islands as Japan claimed and therefore not entitled to a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The administration later sent patrol vessels to the area in a move they said was aimed at protecting the rights of Taiwanese fishermen operating there.
In contrast to the KMT's stance, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government decided to resolve the issue through diplomatic channels and negotiations after assuming power in May 2016.
The new DPP administration has said it will not take a position on whether Okinotori is legally an island for the time being.
According to a foreign ministry statement, Taiwan's delegation is being led by TJRA Secretary-General Chang Shu-ling and also includes officials from the Fisheries Agency, Coast Guard Administration, Ministry of Science and Technology and the foreign ministry.
Meanwhile, the Japanese delegation, includes officials from a number of government agencies, including those involved with fisheries, the coast guard, technology and foreign affairs.
The two-day meeting will conclude on Wednesday, according to the foreign ministry.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel