However, even to begin to talk about a regional solution to East Asia’s sovereignty disputes requires preparing the ground. The first step must be to reduce diplomatic tensions. Fortunately, this appears to be taking place. Having gone to the brink, the leaders of both China and Japan appear to have taken a direct hand in softening their countries’ rhetoric.
However, no one should think that this lowering of the temperature is permanent. Other steps are needed to create habits of civil diplomacy around hot-button territorial claims.
Here, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) East China Sea peace initiative, which calls on all parties to refrain from antagonistic behavior, resolve disputes through peaceful means and establish a code of conduct for cooperation in the East China Sea, is a clear step forward. While Taiwan’s sovereignty dispute with Japan over the Diaoyutai Islands (known in Japan as the Senkaku Islands) — involves non-negotiable claims, the resources surrounding the islands can nevertheless be shared.
Ma’s approach to reducing tensions in the region would benefit all parties. Although adversaries may not reach agreement in the short term on the issue of sovereignty, they should be able to find a formula that allows them to share the resources, natural or otherwise, of the islands and the nearby waters.
Japan and Taiwan have already started along a parallel road in their joint fisheries talks. It is now time for China and Japan, the region’s two paramount economies, to put their people’s prosperity and security first in the interest of successful shared development.
Charles Tannock is foreign affairs coordinator for the European Conservatives and Reformists in the European Parliament.
Copyright: Project Syndicate