President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday proposed a peace initiative to address territorial disputes over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), urging neighboring countries to show restraint and settle the issue peacefully.
“We hope to use the East China Sea Peace Initiative to urge all sides to seriously face the possible impact of this territorial dispute on peace and security in the East China Sea,” Ma said.
Ma called on all parties to refrain from aggression, to shelve their differences, to maintain dialogue, to observe international law and to resolve the dispute by peaceful means. All sides should also seek consensus on a code of conduct for the East China Sea, and establish a mechanism for cooperation on exploring and developing resources in the region, he added.
All parties concerned should admit the existence of the dispute, while pursuing peaceful means to resolve it, he said during the opening ceremony of an exhibition in Taipei to mark the 60th anniversary of a peace treaty signed between the Republic of China and Japan following the second Sino-Japan War.
Ma, who described himself as a long-term activist in the local Diaoyutais movement since he was a university student, also reiterated the Republic of China’s (ROC) sovereignty over the Diaoyutais, which Taiwan considers to be under the jurisdiction of Yilan County in northeastern Taiwan.
Taiwan, Japan and China have been involved in heated disputes due to competing territorial claims over the Diaoyutais for several years.
Ma’s remarks also come at a time when Japan is moving toward nationalizing the Diaoyutais, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) said Taiwan had notified Japan of Ma’s proposed peace initiative before the president brought up the idea at the ceremony. However, he added that the Japanese government had made no comment.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday recognized the “long overdue” peace initiative by Ma, but urged Ma to take concrete and cautious diplomatic actions over the Diaoyutai Islands dispute.
“It’s better to have a position than no position, but actions speak louder than words. We urge President Ma to take the necessary measures to back up his words,” DPP Department of International Affairs Director Liu Shih-chung (劉世忠) said.
The Ma administration, which said it would “not give one inch on the islands’ sovereignty” last month, should stop escalating tensions over the disputed islands, stop creating a false perception in the international community that Taiwan and China would “co-manage” the Diaoyutai issue and cautiously deal with Taiwan-Japan relations through diplomatic dialogue and negotiations, Liu said.
Liu said the Ma administration should shoulder part of the blame for rising tensions in the region by sending five coast guard vessels to escort a fishing boat full of activists waving a People’s Republic of China (PRC) flag in the waters around the Diaoyutais.
“It hurts Taiwan’s global image and makes other countries think that Taiwan stands on the same side as China,” he said.
Speaking on the sidelines of a book-launching ceremony yesterday, former representative to Japan Lo Fu-chen (羅福全) said Ma’s effort to promote peace should be recognized, but the initiative was somewhat vague.
Lo, who was a representative to Japan between 2000 and 2004, when the DPP was in power, said he had not been able to fully grasp Ma’s definition of the East China Sea because there are many flashpoints in the region, including a dispute over undersea oil fields between China and Japan and a dispute over Takeshima, also known as Dokdo in Korean, between Japan and South Korea, in addition to the Diaoyutais.