National Security Bureau (NSB) Director-General Tsai Der-sheng (蔡得勝) yesterday dismissed rising tensions in the South China Sea as “acts of bluffing” on the part of some countries that claim part or all of the territory in the area.
“Despite frequent moves to assert sovereignty [over islands in the South China Sea], the situation in the South China Sea is still controllable,” Tsai told lawmakers at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.
“Countries capable of waging war have no intention to engage in battles, while countries that have no combat capabilities will not start a war,” Tsai said.
Nonetheless, the situation in the South China Sea could become more complicated because territorial disputes in the region are complex, and involve political and economic interests, which has forced the claimants to take action “for the sake of domestic politics.”
Answering questions by -lawmakers, Tsai said Taiwan is active in the South China Sea, despite its lack of participation in an ASEAN-initiated multilateral mechanism to resolve disputes, as well as its absence from other bilateral dispute-resolving mechanisms.
“Had we played no role, officials from the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam would not have bothered to demand Taiwan not work with China on the issue, which they did both in public and privately,” Tsai said.
Although Taiwan holds the same territorial claims as China over the region, Taipei’s “unwavering stance” is that it will not cooperate with China on the issue, Tsai said.
Tsai also dismissed an idea proposed by the National Policy Foundation, the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) think tank, that Taiwan and China use the South China Sea as a pioneer region to implement a military -mutual trust mechanism.
“It is not appropriate to do that for the moment,” Tsai said.
In response to a question by KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) regarding China’s military buildup, Tsai said China had plans to build two medium-sized aircraft carriers from 2013 and 2015, with an estimated completion period of seven years.
Citing the latest US report on China’s military power, Lin said China’s first aircraft carrier, the refurbished Varyag, would likely serve as a training and evaluation platform.
Tsai disagreed, saying the aircraft carrier, which began sea trials in August last year, had completed six sea trials to date and would be used as a warship if necessary.
“In the initial stage of its commission, the Varyag will be used for the purpose of training, but that does not mean that it cannot be used for combat,” he said.