The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday rebuffed calls by New Party Chairman Yok Mu-ming (郁慕明) that the government should take a tougher stance on the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) amid rising tensions between claimants.
The government upholds the position that all parties must “show restraint” and “not arouse populist and nationalist sentiments that could escalate tensions,” ministry spokesperson Steve Hsia (夏季昌) said, adding the remark was not specifically in response to Yok, “but to all concerned parties in China, Hong Kong and Japan.”
On Wednesday, Yok said that the course of action taken by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s Cabinet on the Diaoyutai Islands “sent a strong message” that Japan’s right-wing groups hold sway on its policy.
“It’s a warning worthy of notice for governments on both sides of the Strait,” Yok said.
Yok suggested that the Yilan County Government and National Property Administration at the Ministry of Finance draw up rules for nationals buying the islands and that the government declare the islands a military exercise artillery range.
“We [the New Party] would like to raise funds to buy a plot of land in the mountains in the islands for this purpose. Taiwan can maintain a moratorium on military exercises as long as Japanese activists do not land on the islands. Once they make inroads into the islands, the government should resume the drills,” he said.
The statement came amid heightened tensions over the islands after Japanese lawmakers and activists landed on the Diaoyutais on Aug. 19, prompting anti-Japanese protests across China, which also claims sovereignty over the islands.
Lying about 100 nautical miles (185km) off Taiwan’s northeastern tip, the Diaoyutais are controlled by Japan, but are also claimed by Taiwan and China.
In response to a media query on whether Taiwan was eligible as a plaintiff to bring the dispute with Japan to the International Court of Justice — a way President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) recently said could be used to resolve the issue — Hsia yesterday called on Japan to recognize the existence of the sovereignty disputes over the region.
In order for the international court to handle the case, Japan must acknowledged that sovereignty over the islands is being disputed, Hsia said.
“What we are most concerned about is resolving the issue peacefully. We would like to consider all possible options: negotiation, mediation, and arbitration,” Hsia said.
“It’s only after Japan recognizes the existence of the sovereignty dispute that we can put aside controversy and move on to the next step. We urge all concerned parties, especially Japan, to recognize the competing claims,” he added.
On Wednesday, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), who was in New York for a brief stopover on his way to visiting diplomatic allies El Salvador and Nicaragua, said Taiwan is on good terms with Japan and he hoped bilateral relations would not be sabotaged by the Diaoyutais dispute.
It is crucial for Taiwan not only to reaffirm sovereignty over the islands, but also to maintain good bilateral relations with Japan, he said.
Additional reporting by CNA