President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) should clearly explain his view that Taiwan could negotiate with Japan on sovereignty of the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday following the release of Ma’s interview with state-run China News Agency (CNA).
“We are not sure what Ma meant in the interview about negotiations with Japan over the Diaoyutais’ sovereignty, as he had not done so in his first four-year term,” DPP spokesperson Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said.
Ma said in the interview that Taiwan would negotiate with Japan about the fishing rights of Taiwanese fishermen around the Diaoyutais as well as the sovereignty of the disputed islands.
Ma should also pay attention to a false perception he had created that Taiwan intended to collaborate with Beijing on the issue, Lin said.
The DPP would not comment on Ma’s rhetoric, which described the DPP’s efforts to increase its exchange with China as “timid,” Lin said.
The party also said it considered a much-publicized meeting between Ma and opposition leaders to be “secondary” because “the priority for Ma now [should be] ... to do everything he can to improve Taiwanese people’s well-being, not to meet with the opposition,” Lin said.
In his interview, Ma pledged to push ahead with the objectives set forth in the East China Sea Peace Initiative based on the core principle of “no division of territory, and common share of resources.”
The initiative was proposed by Ma on Aug. 5 amid growing tensions in the East China Sea.
Ma’s proposal was followed by more confrontation by concerned parties in the resource-rich area — which has been at the center of escalating disputes between Taiwan, Japan and China for years because of conflicting claims over the islands.
“The purpose of submitting the peace initiative is for all interested parties to solve the matter peacefully, as escalating tension in the region would inevitably lead to collision, or even armed conflict. That is something no neighboring countries would be pleased to see,” Ma said.
Defending the nation’s sovereignty claims over the islands, Ma said that geographically, the distance from the island group to Taiwan was the shortest and it had remained an inherent territory of the Republic of China.
Traditionally, the region has also been a fishing region for Taiwanese fishermen for more than a century, Ma said.
As part of the government’s effort to safeguard the country’s interests and fishing rights in the area, Ma said that the Coast Guard Administration had dispatched vessels to escort and secure Taiwanese fishing vessels on 10 occasions, including one occasion that involved a five-hour standoff with Japanese patrol guards.
“The fishing rights of Taiwanese fishermen will not be the only issue we plan to bring up with Japan, as the government will also put the matter of sovereignty on our negotiation table,” Ma said, adding that if Japan refused to recognize the existence of sovereignty disputes over the islands, these aforementioned matters could never be fully addressed.
Ma said that Japan had sought to settle bitter rows with Russia over the Kuril Islands, known as Southern Kurils in Russia and Northern Territories in Japan, and with South Korea over the Liancourt Rocks, which is called Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese, in the International Court of Justice.