A Taiwanese coast guard vessel in the area of the disputed Diaoyutai islands. (Photo/Wang Chue-wei)
Japan on Thursday moved to ease tension with Taiwan over a territorial dispute by calling on Taipei to resume fishery talks as part of efforts to put their overall relationship back on track.
Japan's Interchange Association, which represents Japanese interests in the absence of diplomatic ties with the Republic of China, issued a statement in response to President Ma Ying-jeou's East China Sea Peace Initiative.
Japan thinks it is important to push forward substantive cooperation projects to make the East China Sea a "sea of peace," the statement said, reiterating similar comments made by Japan's foreign minister, Koichiro Gemba, at a press conference on Aug. 7.
This was the first time the Japanese agency has made a public statement following Tokyo's nationalization of three islets in the Diaoyutai island group, over which Taiwan and China also claim sovereignty.
The association said Taiwan is an important partner of Japan as the two parties have close personnel and economic relations.
The director of the association's Taipei office, Sumio Tarui, on Sept. 11 also made it clear to Taiwan's foreign minister, Timothy Yang, the hope that bilateral ties will not be affected by the issues revolving around what Japan calls the Senkaku islands, said the statement.
The statement said some Taiwanese media have made some "misleading" reports about what could happen to Taiwanese fishermen who operate in waters near the Japanese controlled islands that lie some 100 nautical miles off Taiwan, following the Japanese government plan to purchase three of the islets from a private owner.
Japan will not change its policy regarding foreign fishing boats operating within Japan's exclusive economic zones after its announcement to nationalize the three islets, the association reassured.
It said Japan hopes to develop "practical cooperation projects" in different areas with Taiwan, and at this point it would like to keep in close contact with Taiwan over fishery cooperation.
Expressing its hope to reopen fishery talks with Taiwan as soon as possible, the association called on Taiwan to engage in "constructive" discussions to explore ways of cooperation that are acceptable to both sides.
Former vice president Lien Chan, who represented President Ma Ying-jeou at the recent APEC summit in Vladivostok, Russia, called on Japan's prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, to show sincerity if Japan is to resume fishery talks with Taiwan.
The two sides had conducted 16 rounds of talks over fishing rights in waters surrounding the Diaoyutai Islands without results, as Taiwanese fishing boats have often been harassed by Japanese coast guard vessels near the disputed islands.