The Democratic Progressive Party’s Department of Foreign Affairs on Saturday called for a multilateral approach to the ongoing tensions in the South China Sea.
The DPP’s reiteration of its position that issues related to the South China Sea must be addressed through a multilateral framework came following a draft agreement on the guidelines for the implementation of the Declaration of Conduct between China and ASEAN earlier this month.
“Despite several calls from China for ‘cooperation between the two sides of the strait’ on the South China Sea issue, the DPP urges President Ma Ying-jeou’s [馬英九] administration to take part in multilateral talks with all parties involved in order to serve Taiwan’s best interest and to preserve regional stability,” the statement said in English.
The statement said that when Ma served as Mainland Affairs Council deputy minister in the 1990s, he said that the two sides of the strait must set aside sovereignty differences and work together on the South China Sea issue while “dealing with outside parties in a unified way.”
“The DPP strongly opposes this proposal as we believe that bilateral talks alone will not help in resolving disputes in the region, and will send the wrong message to the international community,” the statement says, adding that disputes in the South China Sea could not be effectively resolved solely through bilateral negotiations.
“We have already seen the escalation of tensions in the region due to military exercises conducted by China, Vietnam, the Philippines and the United States,” it says. “The DPP believes that only open communication channels, through a multilateral cooperation framework, are the best solution to insure the common interests of all relevant parties and to maintain peace and stability in the region.”
DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has indicated that Taiwan has its own viewpoint regarding the Spratly Islands, and it disputes Beijing’s claims over the territory, it says.
“Taiwan should not be restricted to a cross-strait bilateral framework. Only an open multilateral framework will prevent unnecessary tension or potential conflicts in the region,” it says.
Reiterating the “four core standpoints” regarding the South China Sea, the DPP said Taiwan must ensure sovereignty, peace and stability in the region, enhance multilateral cooperation and promote sustainable development.
“These points are in accordance with the Spratly Initiative proposed by the DPP government in -February 2008. The initiative proposed by the DPP advocates for environmental protection, setting aside sovereignty disputes, promotion of sustainable development versus exploiting natural resources and resolving differences through peaceful means,” it said.
The DPP statement came as the China Marine Surveillance (CMS) on Saturday commissioned the 3,000-tonne Haijian 50 surveillance vessel in Shanghai, the latest ship to join the agency’s increasingly modern and heavy fleet.
The CMS, an organ of the State Oceanic Administration, in May announced it would increase personnel, upgrade its existing fleet and acquire new surveillance ships to patrol its territorial waters over the next five years. As part of the 12th Five Year Plan approved by the State Council, 36 Haijian surveillance ships will join the CMS fleet, British defense publication Jane’s Defence Weekly reported at the time.