Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) again called for restraint by Japan and China in their handling of the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) controvery, saying the current situation has caused concern about the outbreak of a war.
Yang made the call at a scheduled press conference, timed to coincide with the 81st anniversary of the “918 Event” that marked the invasion of Shenyang, China, by Japan on Sept. 18, 1931.
The event eventually led to an eight-year (1937 to 1945) war against Japanese occupation of China, which was then ruled by Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime.
“Today was the 81st anniversary of the 918 Event. We do not want to see recurrence of the same tragedy, which happened when the Republic of China [ROC] launched a war against Japan in 1937,” Yang said.
Yang dismissed accusations that the timing of the press conference was peculiar, saying he had repeatedly been asked by the media in recent days to give his views regarding the Diaoyutai Islands and the 918 Event.
However, he emphasized that “today is a day of historical significance.”
“In retrospect, 81 years ago today, Japan violated international law and disturbed the peace as it launched a war of aggression against the ROC to annex territory in northeast [China] and stepped up its offensive against us thereafter,” he said.
“In order to defend independent sovereignty and territorial integrity, the ROC started a war against Japan in 1937,” he said. “The war caused the death of more than 25 million military personnel and civilians in mainland China. Japanese nationals also paid a heavy price in the war.”
“In the eight-year-long war, most victims were ordinary civilians. The reason we mentioned the 918 Event was that we deeply feel the horror of war and that the trauma of war has made peace all the more precious,” Yang said.
Japan’s unilateral “nationalization” of the Diaoyutai Islands, over which “our country owns sovereignty” and the frequent appearance of Japanese coast guard vessels and Chinese marine-surveillance ships in the area have increased tensions to such an extent that conflicts could occur at any moment, he said.
“We regret that quite a few countries have laid fuses that could lead to conflicts and damage innocent people because of their unilateral actions so many years after World War II ended,” Yang said.
Yang reiterated the East China Sea peace initiative proposed by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) last month, which calls for all parties to shelve differences over their claims over the sovereignty of the region and to jointly explore and develop resources to maintain perpetual peace and prosperity.
Meanwhile, about 100 Taiwanese activists burned a Japanese flag in downtown Taipei yesterday in a protest over the Diaoyutai dispute and show of support for the protests in China.
“When our compatriots in the mainland are striving to protect the Diaoyutais, we people in Taiwan cannot remain silent,” said a spokesman for the China Unification Promotion Party, the organizer of the protest.
The protesters called for cooperation with China to get back the disputed islands, which they said were “stolen” by Japan, and accused the US of favoring Tokyo.
“If Americans stopped throwing their weight behind Japan, the Japanese would back away,” said the China Unification party spokesman, who declined to give his name.