Academics from both sides of the Taiwan Strait recently renewed calls for cooperation between Taiwan and China in managing the situation in the South China Sea, suggesting the two sides lay a basis for possible joint exploration in the region that could involve other claimants.
They suggested that the governments on both sides of the strait forge cooperative ties in the region “in a pragmatic and incremental manner” at a time when the course of cross-strait political relations is “uncertain” and the challenges are “pressing.”
Despite all claimants accepting the principle of “shelving disputes and going for joint development,” there has been only limited progress made to materialize that goal, they said.
In sharp contrast were the relentless efforts of claimants acting unilaterally to woo international investors into the region, they said, singling out Vietnam and the Philippines.
Vietnam, like Taiwan and China, claims sovereignty over the 53 islands in the region, which is also partially claimed by the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
Led by Liu Fu-kuo (劉復國), a research fellow at National Chengchi University’s Institute of International Relations, and Wu Shicun (吳士存), president of China’s National Institute for South China Sea Studies, the group of 16 academics from various institutions in Taiwan and China called for cross-strait cooperation to create benefits for both sides.
Lin Ting-hui (林廷輝), a post-doctoral research fellow at the Center for Asia Pacific Area Studies at Academia Sinica, said that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) decision on whether his administration teams up with China on the issues will be contingent on the international situation.
The US has been very concerned about the government’s plans to beef up its military deployment on Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島), the largest of the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) controlled by Taiwan, because China may use it as an excuse to use military action against Vietnam and the Philippines should they take provocative action, Lin said.
An article co-authored by Wu and his colleague Liu Feng (劉峰) suggested that issues related to safeguarding the interests of Chinese people in the South China Sea and maintaining the integrity of China’s territory be placed on the agenda for cross-strait negotiations.
Among other proposals, the academics said that state-run oil refiner CPC Corp, Taiwan (CPC, 台灣中油) and China’s state oil giant, China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC), should expand their existing cooperation to exploit resources from waters north of the Pratas Islands (Dongsha, 東沙群島) to waters off its eastern coast and waters around the Spratly Islands.
The academics urged both governments to start theoretical research on the “nine-dotted line,” the demarcation line used by both China and Taiwan for territorial claims in the South China Sea.
To make the claim legally defensible, both Taiwan and China should sort through historical archives to present “concerted arguments” in support of the claim and to prepare rebuttal arguments if the claim is found to be contrary to the law, they said.