The government wants to find mutually beneficial solutions that promote peace and development in the East China Sea and South China Sea, and to maintain close relations with Japan and the Philippines, a Taiwanese academic said.
At a panel discussion at the Washington-based Hudson Institute on Friday, Song Yann-huei (宋燕輝) said that while the US attempts to interpret Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) “Chinese Dream,” Taiwan has its own dream for peace in disputed waters in East Asia.
He cited a fisheries pact signed by Taiwan and Japan as an example of that vision, with bilateral dialogue working because of heightened tensions between China and Japan, and shared common interests with the US.
The pact, signed on April 10, opened an additional 4,530km2 of fishing grounds to Taiwanese fishermen in waters surrounding the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) — known in Japan as the Senkakus.
The US has expressed optimism that Taiwan and the Philippines can find a similar solution to their fishing disputes, said Song, a research fellow at the Institute of European and American Studies at Academia Sinica.
Relations between the two countries have turned sour over the past month after a Philippine patrol boat fired at a Taiwanese fishing boat in overlapping waters of the two countries’ exclusive economic zones on May 9, killing Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng (洪石成).
The Philippines claims the Taiwanese crew was “poaching” in its territorial waters.
Although sovereignty issues continue to be an obstacle to improving Taiwan-Philippines ties because of Manila’s adherence to the “one China” principle, Song said Taipei could take advantage of China’s disputes with the Philippines over waters in the South China Sea to improve relations with Manila.
It is also critical that international organizations admit Taiwan as a member and that Taiwan maintains close relations with both Japan and the Philippines, Song said.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) hopes to avoid confrontations over sovereignty issues and reach a cross-strait fishery agreement in a pragmatic manner through trilateral talks with China and Japan, Song said.
In August last year, Ma presented the concept of a East China Sea peace initiative, which advocates reducing tensions over territorial disputes through dialogue and promotes sharing resources and cooperative development.
Paul Giarra, president of Global Strategies and Transformation, a national defense and strategic planning consultancy, said at the panel discussion that Taiwan is well-positioned to be a moderator and mediator on regional geopolitical issues.
Taiwan does not have membership in international organizations, Giarra said, but it does have a voice, and Taiwan is in a perfect position to do and say the right things.
However, Giarra acknowledged that Taiwan faces several challenges in the East China and South China seas, because China is expanding its military power in a bid to change the status quo in the region, and the US and Japan hold a different view on the sovereignty of the Diaoyutais than either Taiwan or China.
“Taiwan is really on a hot seat,” he said. “It is going to have to decide between territorial claims, which it holds from its perspective as a legitimate government of China, and which side it wants to be on in developments in the Asia-Pacific [region].”