Taiwan-Japan fishing talks add to Senkakus tension

Taiwan and Japan have reopened fishery talks that connect with the Senkaku Islands, and that’s not pleasing the Chinese, who claim the territory is really theirs.

China calls the Senkaku Islands the Diaoyu, Taiwan has named them Tiaoyutai, and all three believe they are the rightful owners of the five uninhabited islands in southwestern Okinawa Prefecture, not all that far from Taiwan.  The fact that Taiwan has hundreds of fishermen who haul in 80,000 tons of fish from those Senkaku waters each year –a tonnage representing 7% of Taiwan’s total fishing catch—makes the region particularly important to Taiwan.

Fish are the main source of income for Taiwanese in the Yilan County on the northeast coast, and Taiwan’s been negotiating with Japan to keep those waters open.  The tensions in the area stalled the talks in February 2009, but now Taiwan wants them back.

The potential oil reserves beneath the East China Sea make the Senkaku Islands seem more important than they really are, but China’s flexing its muscle and putting military vessels and its country’s maritime surveillance and research ships in the area to support its claim that the islands are historically theirs.  To offset China, Japan’s leaning toward Taiwan and signaling it will try to cooperate on the fishing.

The islands, only several hundred kilometers northeast of Taipei, but 1,800 kilometers from Tokyo, were ignored for centuries, but 1970s studies suggested that there could be oil and gas reserves suddenly made the islets lucrative to China, Taiwan and Japan.  Japan has always claimed there’s no issue of territorial sovereignty; it has always had control.  China disputes that, claiming its discovery dates to the Ming Dynasty, and since the islands were administered by Taiwan, which China considers its territory, the Senkakus belong to China, too.