Sat, Sep 08, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers press Ma on Diaoyutais

PARADISE LOST:The remote islands — believed to hold vast hydrocarbon resources and abundant fish stocks — have prompted more political bickering over sovereignty

By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Chen Ching-min  /  Staff reporters

People First Party caucus whip Thomas Lee talks during a press conference in Taipei about the Diaoyutai Islands yesterday.

Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times

Opposition lawmakers have dismissed President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) trip to Pengjia Islet (彭佳嶼) yesterday, with some of them proposing a voyage to the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) to better lay claim to the territory.

The People First Party (PFP) yesterday suggested that lawmakers sail to the Diaoyutai Islands — as was seen in 2005 when Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) along with 15 lawmakers and then-defense minister Lee Jye (李傑), among others — traveled aboard a naval vessel to assert Taiwanese sovereignty over the islets.

“We hope that the Coast Guard Administration and the navy do not turn down the idea. We should follow the [2005] precedent,” PFP legislative caucus whip Thomas Lee (李桐豪) told a press conference.

Since Ma was not able to safeguard the nation’s sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands himself, “let lawmakers of the Republic of China do it,” Lee said.

PFP Legislator Chang Show-foong (張曉風), the only opposition lawmaker who has signed up for the trip to Pengjia Islet, changed her mind and instead demanded that the Ma administration “take a much more active role” in asserting its sovereignty.

The trip to Pengjia Islet should be a “start” in laying claim to the Diaoyutai Islands, “not an end,” Lee said.

“If that is not so, it would be perceived as a concession of sovereignty because it is no different from saying that we do not own the Diaoyutai Islands,” he said.

Lee said that the party would put forward a motion for discussion in the legislature’s plenary session that lawmakers sail for the Diaoyutai Islands on Sept. 19.

On June 21, 2005, at the request of the pan-blue camp, the Ministry of National Defense sent the Knox-class frigate Feng Yang, a 3,855-tonne patrol vessel, carrying Wang and 15 lawmakers from across party lines to an area near the Diaoyutai Islands.

The move was aimed to stake a claim for Taiwanese fishermen and to show that they have the rights to operate around the region amid a series of cases in which Taiwanese fishermen have been detained by Japanese maritime forces.

Asked to comment, Wang chose not to express his views.

“It needs more consideration. We are in a different situation than we were in the past,” Wang said.

The Presidential Office invited several Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers to join Ma on his trip to Pengjia Islet, but none of them chose to participate.

The Ma administration should spend the resources used on the trip instead in helping people who are facing financial hardship, DPP caucus whip Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) said.

Tsai urged Ma to look back at Taiwan when he was on Pengjia.

“The country is in dire need of a viable economic strategy with the unemployment rate for young people at 13 percent — three times higher than national average. Meanwhile the government significantly slashed budgets for vocational training and business start-ups,” he said.

DPP Legislator Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) said the trip to Pengjia was arranged to cover up incompetence within the Ma administration in dealing with economic problems.

Since Ma took office in 2008, he has paid little attention to fishing rights issues, she said.

Since 2008 there has been only one round of negotiations with Japan over fishing rights and that was scheduled before he took office, she said, compared with five rounds of negotiations when former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) was in power and ten rounds under the DPP government.

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