As a row over the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) continued, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and former Democratic Progressive Party chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday underlined the need to safeguard Taiwanese rights over rich fishing grounds.
Tsai said in a statement issued yesterday evening that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration should be on the alert and stay out of a potential diplomatic conflict between Japan and China as the recent tension over the islands was likely an attempt by the two countries to shift focus away from their domestic political difficulties.
Ma should demand a reopening of bilateral consultative talks for fishing rights between Taiwan and Japan to safeguard the welfare of Taiwanese fishermen, who are the “biggest victims in the controversy,” Tsai said.
Ma should also be clear and resolute about Taiwanese sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands and keep Beijing’s rhetoric out of the dispute, she said.
“If Taiwan lodged a protest against Japan’s nationalization of the islands, it should also regard Beijing’s inclusion of the region as its territory and Chinese vessels’ intrusion into the region as provocations, so that Japan does not assume that Taiwan is collaborating with Beijing on the issue,” Tsai said.
Taiwan’s passive attitude toward China’s claim of sovereignty could also create a false perception in the international community that Taiwan is part of China, she said.
Lee was also dogged for comments about the Diaoyutais controversy throughout his journey in central Taiwan, which concluded yesterday. The former president reiterated that the issue was about “fishing rights” rather than sovereignty and the government “should stop lying to its people.”
In response to reporters’ questions yesterday, the 89-year-old said neither historical facts nor international law prove that the islets are Taiwanese territory.
“The fishing grounds are the most important issue in the dispute, as the rich fishery resources around the Diaoyutais’ waters affect the livelihood of Taiwanese fishermen,” Lee said while visiting Dongshih Township (東勢) in Greater Taichung
Lee shrugged off criticism from the Presidential Office and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers about his comments, which they said implied that Japan has sovereignty over the Diaoyutais.
While Lee did not directly say that Japan holds sovereignty over the islands, he has said in the past that sovereignty over the Diaoyutais would not have been transferred without military conflicts and occupation or international treaties.