Still, even if Ma’s proposal looks good on paper, this begs the question: Will anybody listen? Beijing and Tokyo have, as of yet, failed to directly address the “East China Sea peace initiative.” With emotions running high and domestic political considerations to take into account, neither China nor Japan may at present be able to shift to more conciliatory postures — indeed, Taiwan has found this difficult as well even with Ma pushing his peace initiative. However, if tensions slowly fade, as they have during past crises, the leaders in Tokyo and Beijing may begin casting about for ways to avoid future confrontations or at least ensure that such rows do not get out of hand. Taipei’s plan, at the very least, could be a good place for them to start. And if the three interested parties in the Senkaku/Diaoyutai disputes have even a modicum of success in carrying out the peace initiative (or something similar) — certainly, a very big “if” — it could provide useful lessons for Japan and South Korea and for the South China Sea as well.
As challenging as the Asian maritime territorial disputes are, they provide Taiwan an opportunity to play a constructive role in the region. The trick is figuring out how to do so. To the extent Taipei can seize that opportunity, it will find itself a more critical player in promoting regional peace and stability in the coming years.
Michael Mazza is a research fellow in foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.