President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday touted government efforts to seek peace in the East China Sea and said bilateral negotiations should be the first step in resolving the sovereignty of the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台).
Meeting with participants of the East China Sea Peace Forum, Ma said Taiwan, China and Japan all claim sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands and continuing the disputes over the issue would only create tensions in the area.
“We should start by having bilateral negotiations on the sovereignty issue and narrow down the scope of the issue gradually. It would be a more practical approach to solve the issue,” Ma said at the Presidential Office in Taipei.
The bilateral negotiations proposal is part of Ma’s East China Sea peace initiative announced last year, in which he proposed that the three nations involved in the dispute should have “three-sided bilateral dialogue” amid escalating tensions over the sovereignty of the islands.
The three nations should shelve their differences, pursue peace and reciprocity, and jointly explore the natural resources in the area, he said.
The peace initiative covers a wide variety of issues, including the development of resources, environmental protection and ocean science research, and a consensus on such issues could also help to narrow the scope of the dispute, he said.
“While the sovereignty of the Diaoyutai Islands cannot be divided, resources in the area can be shared. We must find some common ground before starting negotiations,” Ma said.
The forum was organized by the Prospect Foundation and it brought together experts from 20 countries to discuss the initiative’s possible impact amid rising regional tensions.
Ma applauded some members’ suggestions that private companies should be invited to participate in bilateral negotiations in the future and said that the nations involved would be able to find common interests more easily by having the private sector join the negotiations.
The Diaoyutais, known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyu Archipelago (釣魚群島) in China, lie about 120 nautical miles (220km) northeast of Taipei.