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Taiwan, Japan fail to make headway in 3-day fisheries talks

This file photo taken in September 2012 shows the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. (Kyodo)

TAIPEI (Kyodo) -- A Taiwan-Japan joint fisheries committee that met this week in Tokyo to discuss orderly fishing in waters off a group of disputed islands failed to reach any deals, Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

Both sides "cordially exchanged opinions" during the three-day meeting that ended Thursday, the ministry said in a statement. It said they agreed to meet again before this year's fishing season begins, which is in April,

It marked the first time for a meeting of the committee not to yield any results since it was established in 2013 under a landmark fisheries pact that ended a decades-long dispute over fishing in the contested waters of the East China Sea.

The agreement allows Taiwanese fishing trawlers to operate in part of Japan's exclusive economic zone near the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands, also claimed by Taiwan and China, which call them Tiaoyutai and Diaoyu, respectively.

However, the pact does not include what Japan claims as its 12-nautical-mile territorial waters around the contested islands.

A segment of the meeting minutes obtained by Kyodo News showed that Japanese negotiators complained that Taiwanese fishing boats have been violating the pact by operating inside the 12-nautical-mile zone, with at least 40 cases recorded last month alone and about 20 cases from March 1 to March 3.

"If the problem persists, the Japanese side will be forced to take concrete actions," it said.

The Foreign Ministry said the Taiwanese side reiterated its position on fishing activities in "overlapping exclusive economic zones outside the area covered by the Taiwan-Japan fisheries agreement," without elaborating.

In 2013, both sides had agreed to continue to negotiate through the joint committee on issues they had failed to agree upon, including fishing in waters above 27 degrees north latitude and waters south of the Yaeyama Islands.

At this week's meeting, Japanese negotiators declined to discuss fishing activities in those particular waters, according to a participant who is not authorized to speak to the media.

Nor would they negotiate on fishing activities in waters near Okinotori, the southernmost point of Japanese territory, the source said, adding that Taiwanese fishermen hope to continue operating there and want their the government to "toughen up" and protect their interests.

Taiwan and Japan began negotiating the issue at a separate dialogue mechanism after a Taiwanese fishing boat and its crew members were detained for fishing in Japan's self-declared exclusive economic zone near Okinotori in April 2016.

At the three-day meeting, both sides discussed such issues as automatic identification system, as a safety feature to help avoid collision and to enable authorities to monitor vessel traffic, as well as third-party insurance.

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