Although the former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration upheld the nation’s claims to the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) and the South China Sea, two areas that have seen escalating disputes recently, there is a “huge” difference between the policies of the DPP and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said in an interview on Thursday.
“Washington assumed that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) would promote stable cross-strait relations — until the Diaoyutai dispute took place, when the US realized there has been a great shift in the balance of cross-strait relations,” Su told the Taipei Times.
The DPP claimed sovereignty over the islands during its eight years in power, Su said, but this did not lead to conflict with Japan.
“Fifteen rounds of fisheries talks were held during that time, while only one’s been held during Ma’s five years in office,” Su said.
Ma’s handling of the dispute has dragged China into the equation, as well the US, a stakeholder in the US-Japan Security Treaty, Su said, adding that Beijing could not assert its sovereignty over the Diaoyutais without going through Taiwan.
“His collaboration with China on the issue has also created tensions and unrest. The DPP is very clear on the issue with its four-point statement, including its pledge not to collaborate with China,” he said. “The DPP has always called for resolving the dispute through peaceful negotiations, while Ma sent coast guard vessels [in September] to fire water cannons at Japanese boats [near the Diaoyutais].”
Su said Ma’s handling of Taiwan’s claims in the South China Sea also created unnecessary tensions with neighbors.
“Taiwan has had troops stationed on Itu Aba (Taiping Island, 太平島) for decades and claims sovereignty over the region, but it also respects the South China Sea code of conduct, which emphasizes negotiations rather than provocation,” he said, adding that Ma also approved a live-fire drill on Taiping last year.
“This pleased only China and raised tensions with other claimants. The DPP never backed off from its claims, but it did not provoke conflict either,” Su said.
Turning to sovereignty, Su said: “Taiwanese are unhappy with the way Ma has handled sovereignty issues.”
“He did not say a word about China’s inclusion of Taiwan as part of its territory in the new Chinese passports, but blasted the DPP three hours after the DPP issued passport stickers with the inscription ‘Taiwan is my country’ as a countermeasure to Beijing’s provocative move,” he said.
Su also accused Ma of dragging his feet on trade liberalization and efforts to join regional blocs, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which Ma said Taiwan could join in eight years, and a possible attempt to accede to ASEAN’s Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership for East Asia.
“The DPP supports free trade, period,” Su said, when asked to address protectionism.
“Taiwan should join the TPP as soon as possible, but we have to be ready to deal with the inevitable impact on domestic industries, and that’s what Ma has failed to do. All he has done is talk — there have been no substantial preparations,” He said. “It makes no sense for Ma to talk about joining the TPP in eight years because he will no longer be in office by then. He could have told people what he planned to do in four years.”