Taiwan and Japan have set a good example by addressing territorial disputes in peaceful ways, former AIT director Douglas Paal said yesterday.
Paal said that the East China Sea peace initiative proposed by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) “is a positive thing” that tries to find solutions to the frictions among countries in the region.
The idea of the peace initiative is to “protect your sovereignty and still share resources,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the East China Sea Peace Forum in Taipei. “I think Japan and Taiwan have set a very good example for the rest of the region.”
“It will be very helpful if we can shift the emphasis from contention and friction over resources to cooperation of resources,” he said.
Given rising tensions and growing nationalism in Asia, Paal said now is an important moment to change the emphasis from friction to resource-sharing and economic growth.
On the issue of Taiwan-US ties, he said the basic purpose of the long-standing bilateral relationship is to “make sure that Taiwan has adequate defenses, so that they can be a force for stability.”
“Weakness breeds instability and a weak Taiwan could be a source of tension and instability in the region,” he said.
Paal said he believed that the US would remain highly committed to providing Taiwan with adequate defense services and equipment to maintain an effective deterrence against attack.
“I don’t think that will change, despite the ins and outs of the rebalance strategy toward China,” he said.
Asked about tensions between China and Japan over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), which Taiwan also claims, Paal said he hoped a meeting between the leaders of the two countries could take place at this year’s APEC summit in Beijing in November.
Ma proposed the peace initiative in August 2012 to address disputes over the Diaoyutais, also known as the Diaoyu Archipelago (釣魚群島) in China and the Senkaku Islands in Japan.
The peace initiative calls for the parties concerned to shelve differences and jointly explore resources.
After Ma proposed the initiative, Taiwan has taken a similar approach to dealing with fishing disputes with the Philippines, with both countries negotiating an agreement on cooperation in maritime law enforcement in their overlapping economic waters.
In April last year, Taiwan and Japan also signed a historic fishery agreement that allows fishermen from both countries to operate in a designated area of their overlapping economic waters in the East China Sea to resolve longstanding disputes.
Organized by the Taipei-based Prospect Foundation to mark the second anniversary of Ma’s peace initiative, yesterday’s forum brought together nearly two dozen local and foreign academics to discuss cooperation, regional conflict prevention, economic integration and the future prospects of the peace initiative.