Taiwan’s efforts to restate its sovereignty claims amid territorial disputes involving China, Vietnam, the Philippines and India got off to a bad start after media noticed that next year’s calendar published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs depicts the territories under Republic of China (ROC) sovereignty without including Itu Aba (Taiping Island, 太平島) and the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台).
The calendar — a product regarded by the ministry as an important international promotion of the country and its government — features 18 locations in Taiwan and also introduces the possibility of world heritage site listings, as well as including a 700-word description of the nation in six languages, the Chinese-language United Evening News reported yesterday.
Despite praising the policies of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration and including an introduction to the government and a list of territories under ROC jurisdiction, the calendar fails to mention Itu Aba, located in the South China Sea’s Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), and the East China Sea’s Diaoyutai Islands, over which Taiwan claims sovereignty.
It is much more cautious than recent moves by China, which has included all disputed territories in a map in its passports, the article said, adding that it was odd that the calendar, which was supposed to promote Taiwan to the international community, would fail to make such a claim.
Meanwhile, ministry spokesman Steve Hsia (夏季昌) said that all matters pertaining to the calendar had been managed by the ministry’s international mass media section, which was originally part of the now-disbanded Government Information Office (GIO).
The design and original version of the calendar was approved by the GIO, which had also been responsible for the material in the past, Hsia said.
The calendar is not a declaration of sovereign territory and the contents constitute only a brief overview, Hsai said, adding that it did not comprehensively list all the islands under ROC jurisdiction.
The overview includes the character deng (等), or “etcetera,” he said.
However, the English translation of the calendar does not use “etcetera,” nor does it imply that there are additional islands, the United Evening News wrote, adding that the English on the calendar specifically mentioned the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島), but not the Spratlys, while the Diaoyutais were nowhere to be found in either the Chinese or the English version.
Hsia said the absence of Itu Aba Island and the Diaoyutais did not mean that the nation was giving up its claims of sovereignty over them, adding that other official documents already make the case for Taiwan’s claims.
Hsia said the Pratas Islands mentioned in the calendar effectively included the islands in the South China Sea claimed by the ROC.
If the government were to detail all the islands over which the ROC claims sovereignty on the calendar, it would not be able to cite the reasons for making such claims and would undermine the government’s policy on the issue, Hsia said, adding that it could also lead to the claims being challenged.
The ministry was reportedly not very clear on the contents of the calendar prior to its taking over the GIO, and after seeing the contents of the calendar this year, it had some differences of opinion on the wording.
It is possible that the calendar did not make it up the chain of command at the ministry or was not reviewed by other sections of the ministry prior to its release, the United Evening News said.
Additional reporting by Hung Che-cheng