Despite some academics from renowned US think tanks, such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, as well as a minority of members from the US Senate, House of Representatives and Congress, openly expressing their support for the East China Sea peace initiative proposed by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), this does not mean the government of US President Barack Obama will support the Ma administration’s policy ideas when it comes to the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan.
The reason for this is that Taiwan hopes the US can play a neutral role in the Diaoyutais issue and that China, Japan and itself can negotiate on the issue while also sharing resources from the islands.
However, this is not in line with security policies that the US has for the Asia-Pacific region or its strategic military deployment in the area.
Such a scenario could give China and Taiwan the chance to join forces and resist Japan.
This could also give Chinese military forces the opportunity to break what military strategists refer to as the “first island chain,” which would threaten US interests in the Asia-Pacific region.
Comments made by former deputy assistant secretary of state Randall Schriver during a meeting on US-Taiwan relations on Feb. 8 in Washington by the Heritage Foundation highlight this view.
Schriver said that although the US does not have a particular position when it comes to who the Diaoyutais belong to, it is not neutral when it comes to the issue because the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the US and Japan states that the islands belong to Japan.
The US does not want to see these islands fall into the hands of China, and without Japan there is also no way the US could carry out its duty to protect Taiwan as stipulated in the Taiwan Relations Act.
The East China Sea peace initiative that Ma proposed on Sept. 9 last year, and his hope that the US can keep a neutral stance on the Diaoyutais issue, is wishful thinking on his part and these ideas are not in line with US strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific.
This is also evident from the way disputes over the sovereignty of the Diaoyutais have been heating up over the past six months, with China and Japan at loggerheads with each other and a high possibility of war.
This can further be seen as the US has not come out in any official way or used the East China Sea peace initiative as a means to solve the disputes over the Diaoyutais. It has instead chosen to keep a hard stance about Japan having jurisdiction over these islands.
Yao Chung-yuan is a strategy consultant at the Association for Managing Defense and Strategies.
Translated by Drew Cameron