Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) yesterday said the dispute over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) was about fishing rights rather than a sovereignty issue and that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) recent proposal was “thoughtless.”
“This has always been an issue of fishing rights. It is not a sovereignty issue,” Lee said during a question-and-answer session on the second day of his three-day visit to central Taiwan.
Asked by reporters about Ma’s proposal to resolve the controversy in two stages — which calls for holding three sets of bilateral dialogues between Taiwan, Japan and China, before holding a three-party talk — Lee said “no one in the international community would buy into the initiative.”
The 89-year-old, who had publicly said that Japan has sovereignty over the Diaoyutais, sidestepped the question of sovereignty, saying that the Japanese government’s nationalization of the islets “was a business transaction between its government and citizens that has nothing to do with Taiwan.”
He urged the government to focus on finding a resolution to fishing rights, which he said was a more important task because it involved the livelihood of fishermen in Yilan County.
The Diaoyutais have been the fishing ground of Taiwanese fishermen since the Japanese colonial period, Lee said.
Since Taiwan and Japan have failed to reach a consensus after 16 consultative meetings on fishing rights over the years, Lee suggested having fishermen’s associations from both sides work out a solution on their own.
Lee said it would be unwise and inappropriate for the government to intentionally or unintentionally ignore a faltering domestic economy and spend too much attention on the Diaoyutais controversy.
“I really don’t think that ordinary people care about the islets,” Lee told reporters at Lugu Township (鹿谷), Nantou County.
The former president was visiting various areas in Nantou County and Greater Taichung that were hit by the 921 Earthquake, a magnitude 7.6 quake that killed more than 2,400 people 13 years ago this month.
Turning to other issues, the former president said a recent massive protest staged by Hong Kong residents against the government’s plan to introduce patriotism classes showed that Beijing’s “one country, two systems” model was a failure in the special administrative region.
“No one would trust that mechanism anymore,” he said.
In response to a question about the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) “ill-gotten” assets, Lee, a former KMT chairman, said that the party should donate its assets to the government to promote fair competition between political parties.
There has been a mechanism in place to subsidize political parties in Taiwan, which is why parties should no longer possess party assets.
Lee is scheduled to conclude his trip and return to Taipei today.