Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Japan Warms to Taiwan, Isolates China, in Territorial Sea Dispute

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Japan Warms to Taiwan, Isolates China, in Territorial Sea Dispute

Article excerpt

Japan is ready to open a contested tract of the East China Sea to fishing boats from Taiwan, officials in Taipei say, a rare concession in a bitter territorial dispute that involves heavyweight China and has the United States on guard.

Tokyo is willing to extend the fishing area to Taiwanese boats, though the boundaries have yet to be worked out, Taiwans Foreign Minister David Lin told reporters on Wednesday.

Taiwan has sought such a deal since 1996 as it vies with Japan and China for control of eight uninhabited islets that anchor a massive, strategic swathe of the sea rich in fish and believed to hold reserves of oil and natural gas. If the deal goes through it could mean that Japan which has not conceded any territory since the end of World War II wants Taiwan on its side in the struggle against China over the disputed ocean.

Japan controls the islets and would make the fishing area concession to Taiwan, not China, though Beijing has put pressure on Japan with airplanes, boycotts, and mass street protests.

Without conceding anything on history or territory, Japans showing Taiwan a little leg on fishing to play it off the mainland [China], and to maintain its reasonably good relations with Taiwan, says Sean King, senior vice president with the political consulting firm Park Strategies in New York.

Japan, the worlds No. 3 economy, wants better relations with No. 2 China but is locked in the islet dispute and a list of others stemming from the World War II era. In a showdown in January over the islets that Tokyo calls the Senkaku and China calls the Diaoyu, Japan raised its defense budget as China sent military planes.

US officials, who rely on East China Sea shipping lanes, have urged calm.

Taiwan opposes Tokyos claim to the East China Sea islets but sees Japan as an informal ally along with the US in keeping Beijing in check militarily. …

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