Sun, Jun 15, 2014 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: Nation’s global profile key to territory claims: experts

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Saying that Taiwan’s capacity to stake its territorial claims in the South China Sea is constrained by its absence from the multilateral mechanisms that can manage the rival sovereignty claims in the area, some academics are urging the government to establish more academic platforms to raise the nation’s global profile and bolster its claims in the sea.

This week, China took its spat with Vietnam over the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) — a chain in the sea also claimed by Taiwan — to the UN, raising hopes that the international organization will mediate the region’s various territorial disputes, since Beijing had previously rejected an internationally brokered solution when Manila took their dispute over the Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Island, 黃岩島), which Taiwan also claims, to a UN tribunal.

Another solution to the maritime sparring could lie in efforts being made by key players in the region to attach a legally binding code of conduct to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea signed between China and ASEAN members in 2002.

However, neither approach is accessible to Taiwan because of its ambiguous international status, academics say. In the face of this, Liu Fu-kuo (劉復國), a research fellow in the Institute of International Relations at National Chengchi University, said the government should have commissioned serious academic studies on South China Sea issues.

In contrast to other claimants who have set up numerous dialogue platforms through which they can present their cases for sovereignty on the international stage, Taiwan “has done too little,” Liu said.

South China Sea issues are spread across many disciplines, Liu said, adding that “as the issues grow in importance, it becomes increasingly imperative for the government to coordinate research institutions in the relevant fields to produce academic studies and policy recommendations for the government.”

In addition to his post at National Chengchi University, Liu is a distinguished research fellow with the National Institute for South China Sea Studies (NISCSS), a top government-affiliated think tank in China. Other international academics who also hold this position are from the US, Norway, Malaysia, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines.

His appointment to the think tank raised questions about security and conflict of interests, because Taiwan and China have competing territorial claims in the sea, but Liu dismissed these concerns, saying that the significance of Taiwanese academics participating in such a platform with well-respected international researchers in the field “should not be discounted.”

China’s moves to build up its presence in the global academic community to help it assert its claims in the South China Sea is exactly what Taiwan should have being doing all along, Liu said.

Citing as an example the Collaborative Innovation Center for South China Sea Studies at Nanjing University — one of China’s most prolific academic institutions — Liu said there is no such renowned think tank in Taiwan.

Two other NISCSS distinguished research fellows, Michael Gau (高聖惕) and Song Yann-huei (宋燕輝), recently resigned from the position. Song is a research fellow at the Institute of European and American Studies at Academia Sinica, while Gau is a professor at the Institute of the Law of the Sea at National Taiwan Ocean University.

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