President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) used a videoconference with US academics to praise the recent fishery agreement with Japan as a successful application of his East China Sea peace initiative, adding that the government would seek cooperation with China on the joint development of natural resources in the area, while shelving territorial disputes over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台).
Taiwan and Japan signed a fisheries agreement last week in a bid to end controversies over fishing in waters surrounding the Diaoyutais, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan.
In a videoconference with the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University in California, Ma said the pact did not address the competing claims over the Diaoyutais because the two sides agreed to set aside territorial disputes during the negotiations.
In response to a question from former US chief of naval operations Gary Roughead about the Diaoyutais situation now, Ma said that since Japan has an agreement with China on resource development in the East China Sea, Taiwan would seek to negotiate with Japan on future talks with China on joint development of natural resources in the area because the two have already been cooperating on sea rescues and oil development in the Taiwan Strait.
“I have always believed that while national sovereignty cannot be divided, natural resources can be shared. If we focus first on natural resources, joint development and joint conservation and management, I think we can develop the kind of mutual trust that may eventually lead us to solutions for sovereignty issues,” he said.
During the one-hour videoconference chaired by former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, Ma said the government would seek to deepen cross-strait relations and reduce tensions across the Strait in a speech entitled “Steering Through a Sea of Change.”
The government would continue to focus on economic and other less sensitive cross-strait issues, while putting aside political disputes over sovereignty, he said. The two sides of the Strait would continue to complete negotiations on trade in goods and services under the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, and expand educational and cultural exchanges, including relaxing restrictions on the number of Chinese students in Taiwan, he said.
In response to Rice’s question about the impact of closer cross-strait ties on Taiwan-US relations, Ma said reducing tensions across the Strait should serve the best interests of the US and the international community, and Taipei would continue to seek closer economic cooperation with the US.
Seperately, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said Ma’s insistence on making China a player in the Diaoyutais dispute between Taiwan and Japan, and his plan to sign a pact with China on sharing resources in the East China Sea, were unnecessary and did not serve Taiwan’s interests.
History has shown that “Ma had only China in his eyes on almost every issue related to international cooperation, such as fighting crime, medical cooperation and economic cooperation,” DPP Policy Research Committee executive director Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said.
“Collaborating with China without strengthening collaborative partnerships with other countries and allies would further trap Taiwan in Beijing’s ‘one China’ framework, which does not serve Taiwan’s interests,” Wu said.
Wu questioned the motives behind Ma’s two-phase approach to resolving the Diaoyutais dispute — bilateral talks between Taiwan and Japan, Taiwan and China, and China and Japan first, and trilateral talks second — saying that dragging China into a Taiwan-Japan dispute would not benefit Taiwan.
The DPP supports joint resource development in the region, but it does not support a bilateral cooperation strategy with China, Wu said.