Just as I was about to give up all hope for Taiwan's maritime policy, I was delighted to hear that the Ministry of National Defense has announced that it will be building a landing strip on Ita Aba (Taiping Island 太平島), one of the Spratly Islands, and that this project will be completed in three months. With the 2005 Taiwan Ocean Year drawing to a close, finally there has been a proposal that will lend substance to that name.
The government's South China Sea policy is often criticized as passive and ineffective. Because of rapid developments in the South China Sea in recent years, Taiwan's role has been marginalized.
In mid-March, the national oil companies of the Philippines, Vietnam and China signed an accord to conduct research in the Spratly Islands for economic purposes. Last month, China signed a communique with Vietnam to state that the agreement was an important contribution to realizing the aims of ASEAN's Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, bringing about greater stability and harmony to the region.
China and Vietnam also agreed to provide active support for companies operating in the area to ensure that the agreement was adhered to, and that cooperation could achieve rapid results.
China followed this with a series of declarations signed with other nations stating that the South China Sea had become a "sea of peace, amity and cooperation." Taiwan, of course, was ostracized from all of this. For Taiwan, the South China Sea is not the sea of cooperation, but one of infractions of its territorial rights. It is not a sea of friendship, but a sea of animosity from which Taiwan is being driven. If Taiwan does not act to counter this, all rights to the area will be given away.
Now that construction of the landing strip has been confirmed, all agencies involved should actively cooperate and look more closely at ways of protecting the nation's territorial claims in the South China Sea. This will be necessary if we are to pave the way for effectively exploiting its resources, maintaining secure air links and maritime security and finding an opportunity to participate in regional dialogue.
We should also pay attention to the response of countries in the region, especially China, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia.
In addition, Taiwan should strengthen its defense of Ita Aba and give considerable thought to whether the navy should again assume this duty, or whether a coast guard detachment should remain at its post.
The South China Sea Task Force (under the jurisdiction of the Executive Yuan) and the Coast Guard Administration should convene as soon as possible to discuss appropriate measures and outline policy.
I also want to suggest that after the completion of the runway on Ita Aba, either the president or vice president should fly to the island and make a policy statement regarding Taiwan and the role it will play in the South China Sea, Southeast Asia and the Taiwan Strait.
If circumstances are too sensitive for either of these officials to visit the island, the government should consider inviting the mayor of Kaohsiung or the mayor of Taipei to do so in their place.
In the same way that Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara took a boat to the southernmost point of Japanese territory before unveiling a plaque and going diving off Okino Torishima, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) could go swimming or jogging around the island of Ita Aba.
Song Yann-huei is a research fellow at the Institute of European and American Studies at Academia Sinica.
Translated by Ian Bartholomew
For China observers, especially those in Taiwan, the past decade has brought awareness of an increasing obsession by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with control. It seeks to control not simply national policy, but all aspects of its citizens’ lives. Not a week passes without some new aspect of Chinese life being brought under CCP control. This forces obvious questions: Why this obsession? And what is driving it? When any one-party state, which already controls government, yet seeks to expand and tighten that control, it bodes ill. With a country the size of China, it bodes ill for Taiwan, Asia and the
Taiwan is now entering a period of maximum danger from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) due to an accelerating Chinese military challenge now emboldened by a shocking dive in American strategic credibility occasioned by its humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan. This means there is a much higher chance that in the next one to three years CCP leader Xi Jinping (習近平) may order the PLA to invade Taiwan because he believes the PLA can win and that the Americans can be dissuaded from coming to Taiwan’s aid in time. It is still possible for Taiwan and Washington
Another year, and another UN General Assembly is convening without Taiwan. Today marks the opening of the assembly’s 76th session at the UN headquarters in New York City, with the option to attend remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which once again promises to be its main focus under the theme “Building resilience through hope.” As they do every year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and overseas compatriot groups are organizing campaigns to call for Taiwan’s participation in the global body. However, unlike previous years, Taiwan seems to be riding a higher wave of support than usual. The pandemic has exposed countless shortcomings
In an op-ed on Friday, Chen Hung-hui (陳宏煇), a former university military instructor, applauded the government’s efforts to reduce the “supply, demand and harm of cannabis.” (“Cannabis use booms on campuses,” Sept. 10, page 8). Chen recounted a story of a boy who partied with the “wrong crowd,” smoked cannabis and died. This story cannot be true, because cannabis is not deadly. Consuming too much can feel mighty unpleasant, but it will not kill a person. This fact is not only backed up by science and statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control, but is well-known in countries where cannabis