Friday, September 28, 2012

Fishermen give Ma a golden opportunity

Fishing boats gather at Suao prior to departure
A true test of the Ma administration’s commitment to a peaceful resolution will be the quick resumption of fisheries talks with Japan

There is a wonderful little Japanese restaurant near the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in downtown Taipei, where the sensuously soft and ever-so-fresh nigirizushi makes one’s toes curl up. Every morning, the chef, Abura-san, goes to the fish market in Suao (蘇澳), Yilan County, to buy the choicest catches. 

Little known to the outside world, the township became close to a household name this week after dozens of fishing boats sailed out from there to the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) to protest the recent purchase of three of the islets by the Japanese government. There’s a reason why Abura-san travels the distance every day. In his opinion, it’s the best fish one can find and the fishermen there know where to go to catch it.

This oft-ignored connection between our palates and the hard work of fishermen who every day toil the sea to bring us its riches should make us pause at a time when governments engage in sloganeering and protesters call for war over the disputed islands. 

As former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), a rare voice of reason in the spiraling dispute, said earlier this month, what truly matters is the livelihood of the thousands of Taiwanese fishermen who over the years have laid their nets in waters around the islets, not who owns them. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) can say whatever he wants about sovereignty, for the majority of sailors who set off for the islands on Monday, practical issues — rights of access to fishing grounds — is what is at stake. 

My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

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