Taiwan fishermen return home after Japan territorial dispute

Taiwan fishermen return home after Japan territorial dispute

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The crew of the Taiwan fishing boat seized by Japan last month in controversial waters near the Okinotori Atoll finally returned home on Thursday, the same day that a Japanese delegation arrived in Taipei, trying to play down the entire affair.

Tung Sheng Chi-16 arrived in Pingtung County in southern Taiwan on Thursday afternoon.

The fishing boat was chased and seized by a Japanese vessel on April 25 when it was sailing in the area around 150 nautical miles away from the disputed Okinotori Atoll, which is roughly halfway between Taiwan and the US territory of Guam.

The Japanese government maintains that the atoll is a group of “islands,” and Japan is “entitled” to the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) surrounding them under international law. The claim has since been disputed by authorities both on the Chinese mainland and Taiwan.

The local government in Taiwan issued a statement immediately after the detention of the men and the ship, emphasizing the fact that the fishing boat was operating in “international waters.”

The photo above: Pan Jianpeng (R), capitan of the Taiwan fishing boat, returns to his family.

Tsai Ing-wen meets with Nobuo Kishi
On the same day that the ship and crew returned home, a Japanese delegation landed in Taipei hoping to soothe the tensions provoked by the detention of the fishermen and their boat.

Meeting with incoming Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen, Nobuo Kishi, a Japanese politician and younger brother of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, led the delegation and expressed his hopes that the dispute over Okinotori could be dealt with in a more positive and stable manner in the future.

Tsai said she believed the dispute could be solved smoothly.

A file photo of Okinotori Atoll
The seizure triggered protests from Taiwan authorities and fishermen. On Sunday, Taiwan dispatched two patrol ships to protect fishing boats operating on the high seas near the Okinotori Atoll.

The Japanese side, on the other hand, lodged a protest with Taipei in response to “not recognizing waters off Okinotori as Japan’s EEZ.”

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said on April 28 that the Okinotori’s status as an island “has been established” under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) also hit out at the Japanese defense of its actions in the affair, calling the Okinotori “rocks” which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own.

“Japan has violated the UNCLOS by categorizing Okinotori as an ‘island’”, said Hua Chunying, Chinese MOFA spokesperson, on April 29.

In April 2012, the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf gave its recommendations in regard to the submission it received from Japan on the limits of its outer continental shelf, stating that it did not recognize Japan’s claim of an outer continental shelf based on the Okinotori Atoll.

With regards to the actual size and dimensions of the Okinotori, the sea features are actually no larger than “a pair of king size beds”, according to an article by Foreign Policy in 2012.

“This singularly unimpressive coral atoll barely remains above the waves at high tide — and only does so thanks to human help. Japan has spent $600 million taking measures to defend Okinotorishima from the sea by encasing parts of the islets in concrete and steel”, wrote Alicia Wittmeyer, assistant managing editor for the online sector of the publication.

CCTV source

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