President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) re-election campaign yesterday defended a move by the National Security Council to promote the nation’s sovereignty claims over the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in schools and accused the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of discrediting the government’s effort to help provide the public with a better understanding of the issues surrounding the archipelago.
“The sovereignty of the Diaoyutais belongs to the Republic of China [ROC] and it is the government’s responsibility to make sure the people understand the issue. What’s wrong with that?” campaign office spokesperson Lee Chia-fei (李佳霏) said.
Lee made the remarks after a story in yesterday’s Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) said the council had bypassed curriculum review procedures and instructed the Ministry of Education to construct a curriculum for mandatory elementary and junior-high school classes on government’s efforts to defend the ROC’s sovereignty over the islands.
The council also asked the education ministry as well as the Ministry of the Interior to allocate NT$3 million (US$98,500) to subsidize civil groups to help promote the issue, the story said, quoting DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲), who said the council was promoting the issue at schools as a part of Ma’s campaign for the presidential election.
The Diaoyutais, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, are a group of uninhabited islets that lie about 185km off the northeastern tip of Taiwan. The islands are also claimed by Japan and China.
Lee said the Ma administration has always defended the ROC’s authority over the island chain and the rights of Taiwanese fishermen amid numerous disputes, adding that it is the government’s responsibility to promote an understanding of the issue and allow students and the public to understand more about national sovereignty and territorial authority.
“DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) had also said the Diaoyutais belong to us. Did Kuan try to dismiss Tsai’s remarks?” Lee said, dismissing attempts to make it a campaign issue.
At a separate setting yesterday, DPP spokesperson Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) said the stance of the Chinese National Party (KMT) and that of the DPP on the Diaoyutais was “actually not that different.”
“However, the DPP holds the view that the controversy should be peacefully resolved through an international mechanism,” Chuang said.
The resolve of Taiwanese regarding territorial protection is indisputable, he said, but it is “highly inappropriate and ridiculous” to carry out the promotion of “protecting the Diaoyutais” by direct orders from the council, he said.
As the agency in charge of national security, the council has no authorization to instruct the education and interior ministries about curriculum, promotional materials or fund-raising, he said.
Additional reporting by Chris Wang