In remarks, President Ma stated that Taiwan and Japan commenced bilateral fisheries talks 17 years ago in 1996. He noted that no substantive progress had been seen in the previous 16 rounds of talks, yet a concrete result was seen at the conclusion of the 17th round of talks a day earlier. The president said he is confident that both the Japanese government and the people of Taiwan will welcome the positive outcome of these talks. In addition, the president thanked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Executive Yuan's Council of Agriculture, the Coast Guard Administration, and other government agencies for their longstanding efforts, as well as the sincerity and goodwill shown by the Japanese side.
President Ma stated that this marks the sixth visit to Taiwan by Chairman Ohashi. The president commented that he was holding a meeting elsewhere when Association of East Asian Relations Chairman Liao Liou-yi (廖了以) was at the Taipei Guest House the previous day signing the fishery rights pact between Taiwan and Japan. He specially took advantage of a break in the meeting to call Minister of Foreign Affairs David Y. L. Lin (林永樂) and confirm that Taiwan and Japan had successfully completed this historic mission. He added that he was very delighted by the outcome.
The president remarked that the Diaoyutai Islets are inherent territory of the ROC and appurtenant to Taiwan. He said that the seas around the islets have been traditional fishing grounds for Taiwanese fishermen for over a century. The president mentioned that this agreement ensures practical benefits for ROC fishermen from New Taipei City, Keelung City, Yilan County, and other cities and counties throughout Taiwan. The pact enables ROC fishermen to operate in an additional 1,400 square nautical miles (4,530 square kilometers) of seas which have large stocks of nearly ten kinds of fish, he said. As for other seas that were not included in the talks, such as areas north of 27 degrees north latitude, and waters peripheral to the Diaoyutais, the two sides in the future will create, in accordance with the agreement, a Taiwan-Japan fisheries committee that will continue talks and seek to forge consensus.
President Ma mentioned that while the two sides during this round of talks were unable to reach a consensus on the issue of sovereignty, the ROC side did make big strides in terms of fishing rights. This indicates that the ROC has adamantly maintained its sovereignty even as the two sides were able to jointly shelve the dispute and peacefully resolve a point of disagreement. This approach, said the president, accords with international law and the Charter of the United Nations, and proves that the East China Sea Peace Initiative that he unveiled in August of last year in an effort to ease tensions in the East China Sea was not just empty words. Rather, it has been taken very seriously by the Japanese government, he said. President Ma expressed hope that the East China Sea can truly become a sea of peace and cooperation, and serve as a foundation to solidify peace and stability in East Asia.
President Ma mentioned that in the five years since he took office, Taiwan has established a representative office in Sapporo, and direct flights have commenced between Tokyo's Haneda Airport and Taipei's Songshan Airport. Meanwhile, both sides have signed a working holiday agreement and the Taiwan-Japan Bilateral Investment Arrangement, while also agreeing via an exchange of letters to enter into an open skies agreement. In addition, the president said, both countries are engaged in talks on a double taxation avoidance agreement. All of these highlight the progress in relations between the two sides, he commented, further expressing hope for more results on investment and trade agreements.
With respect to cultural ties between Taiwan and Japan, President Ma remarked, the Japanese parliament (Diet) two years ago passed the Law Concerning Promotion of Exhibitions of Art Objects from Overseas, which has paved the way for Taiwan's National Palace Museum to exhibit items from its collection in Japan next year. Meanwhile, the president noted, Japan's Takarazuka Revue held a public performance in Taiwan this month that was warmly received. The troupe made a special point during its curtain call to thank the people of Taiwan for their concern and donations to Japan after the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, he said, adding that this gesture deeply touched many people here and further highlights how cultural interaction and activities can help foster greater friendship between the people of the two countries.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Association of East Asian Relations, and the president expressed his deepest appreciation to that organization and the Japan Interchange Association for their longstanding and important role in promoting relations between Taiwan and Japan. The president also expressed hope that the "special partnership" between Taiwan and Japan will continue to move forward in the future.
Chairman Ohashi responded by saying that the just-completed round of fisheries negotiations between the two sides yielded concrete results after inconclusive results in the previous 16 rounds. This marks an enormous and important step, and is proof of the close and trusting relationship between Taiwan and Japan. Both sides used their wisdom to resolve problems that had been in existence for a long time, he said. Chairman Ohashi expressed confidence that the positive outcome of these talks will be conducive to the long-term development of peaceful and friendly relations between the two sides.