Presidential Office spokesperson Charles Chen (陳以信) yesterday blasted president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for calling President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) barbs against those criticizing his trip to Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) “inappropriate.”
Ma on Thursday was upset after Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟) and others condemned his one-day trip to Itu Aba as an unnecessary provocation, saying they should not “hold him back by dragging his feet” when he tried to defend Taiwan’s sovereignty over the island.
Before Ma made the retort, the DPP said that Chao’s remarks were his personal views and the DPP’s official stance originates with Tsai, who maintains Taiwan’s sovereignty over the region and supports freedom of navigation by either airplanes or naval vessels.
Nevertheless, in response to Ma’s comments, Tsai on Friday said that Ma should “face serious issues with a serious attitude; the way he commented on the issue is very inappropriate.”
“If Tsai thought that a DPP lawmaker’s criticism of Ma was right, why did the DPP have to claim that it was Chao’s personal view to distance itself from the remarks? And if Tsai believes [Ma’s trip to the island] should not be condemned, why did she say that Ma’s call for the nation’s support was ‘inappropriate’?” Chen said, adding that Tsai’s self-contradictory logic is hard to understand or support.
Chen said Itu Aba is the territory of the Republic of China and is the largest island with drinkable fresh water among the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), but the island’s legal status is now being seriously challenged by the Philippines, which has attempted to relegate the island’s status to that of a “rock” before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, the Netherlands, and thereby strip its 200 nautical mile (370km) exclusive economic zone.
The “ridiculous claims” made by the Philippines would deal significant damage to the nation’s rights and interests if acceded, Chen said.
“So was it not the perfect time for President Ma to make a trip in order to voice our deep concerns to the international community and the PCA?” he asked.
“Should President Ma just sit and watch the PCA make a ruling that is against our interests and later be slammed as the president who ‘neglected his duty and humiliated his nation?’” Chen asked.
The challenge by another nation to Itu Aba’s legal status is an extremely serious issue, Chen said, adding that the ruling and opposition parties should present a united front to face the challenge.
“Why does Tsai not condemn inappropriate criticism made from within the DPP? Why does she not, along with Ma, publicly assert to the international community that Itu Aba is an island rather than a rock in her capacity as president-elect?” Chen asked.
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