Sunday, July 07, 2013

AJISS: Japan - Taiwan Fisheries Agreement Backgrounder and fisheries agreement round up

This recent cycle of late afternoon thunderstorms is really playing havoc with my cycling, since I like riding in the nearby mountains but don't like descending on slick, leaf-covered, muddy roads threatened by landslides. The picture above is Shuili at about 5 pm the other day. My friend Wayne and I had taken the 147 over to the 131, swung around Sun Moon Lake, lunched, and then climbed the Nantou 63 in anticipation of one of the best descents in the area when all hell broke loose. The skies deluged us. We took refuge in front of someone's house, waiting thirty or forty minutes while the pounding rain continued, and finally flagged down a little blue delivery truck. He raced down the descent over several landslides including a couple of small trees lying across the road, applying the Taiwanese theory that road conditions are irrelevant if you just drive fast enough. All the while he had one hand on the wheel and the other on his cellphone, while chatting with my man Wayne up front. I sat in the rear, stunned, watching the landslides recede into the distance. Rapidly. 

AJISS has an interesting commentary that goes into some of the political aspects of the Fisheries Agreement between Taipei and Tokyo. It observes:
As the above account shows, the Japan-Taiwan fishing talks were wrapped up via political decisions made by both sides. However, the greater context of regional politics that made these decisions possible cannot be overlooked. China-Taiwan relations have stabilized since the Ma administration came to power, and the US, Japan and other neighboring countries have welcomed this. A political understanding on prioritizing the development of economic ties over sovereignty issues premised on both parties belonging to "one China" has brought stability to China-Taiwan relations. In light of this understanding, China has outwardly criticized the words and deeds of the Ma administration but finds it difficult to take actions that would harm Taiwan's interests, as a loss of support for the Ma administration in Taiwan could result in the collapse of the "one China" premise. Realizing that the Chinese government would not protest or interfere, Japan and Taiwan then moved step by step along the process leading to the fisheries agreement.
"loss of support for the Ma Administration." Once again, Taiwan's democracy, which Ma must ostensibly appeal to in order to keep his underlings in power, places restraints on what China can do because it sees Ma as its servant.

Another piece on the agreement by a Japanese commentator observed:
Fishermen in Okinawa have been concerned about the illegal operations of Taiwanese trawlers. They have been asking that the Japanese authorities maintain order in the surrounding waters, securing the area so that they can operate safely, and arresting fishermen who operate illicitly. According to media sources, a Japanese government official commented that the agreement embodies about 80% of the desires of the Okinawan fishermen; however, fishermen from Kumeshima, who are close to the area where Taiwanese trawlers will be allowed to operate, may be dissatisfied. Protecting the interests of fishermen in Okinawa is necessary for the Japanese government.
Illegal trawling operations by Taiwanese fisherman have cause political problems for Taiwan across the Pacific. When commentators in Taiwan argue that the agreement with Japan could be a model for an agreement with Philippines, what they mean is essentially an agreement that legalizes Taiwanese poaching in Other People's Waters. The Japan Times reported that in practice Tokyo is strictly and rigidly interpreting the agreement. The June 13th piece notes:
Since the agreement came into force May 10, Taiwanese vessels have been detained for trespassing four times, only one of which in a zone subject to the agreement. The other three cases concerned fishing equipment drifting outside the zones.

The Japan Coast Guard has increased the number of vessels to patrol waters beyond the areas subject to the fisheries pact at the request of Okinawa’s fishermen.

The Taiwanese fishermen, of course, are not happy either.

Huang Yi-sen, chairman of Yilan County’s Association of Fishermen’s Rights, said the way the Japanese authorities are carrying out the agreement is “simply too strict.”

For instance, while the JCG previously allowed some leeway when infringements occurred, it is now detaining Taiwanese trawlers when their fishing equipment drifts out of the zone even less than 1 nautical mile, he said.

Suao Fishermen Association Director Chen Chun-sheng said if the situation continues, Tokyo will push Taiwanese fishermen into the embrace of China, which has been acting like a big brother to Taiwan in its fishing disputes with Japan.
Yeah, right, like the Suao Fishermen Association wants to see Chinese fishing boats in those waters....

Agreements like this also highlight another aspect of the issue, Taiwan's food security. If you look at the  numbers, Taiwan appears self-sufficient in seafood and "produces" a large surplus. This is an illusion, however; Taiwanese waters are fished out. Rather, Taiwan "produces" so much seafood because it has access to the waters of other nations, legally and illegally. Preserving this access and maintaining harmonious relations with the Pacific island nations whose waters are trawled by Taiwanese boats should be a core policy of every Taiwanese administration. That Taiwan's policies are so China-focused is one of the many costs Beijing's desire to annex Taiwan imposes on the people of Taiwan.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!

No comments: