President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said his administration will not give up the Republic of China’s (ROC) territory in the South China Sea, but will continue to seek peaceful means to address territorial disputes in the region.
Although some have advocated that Taiwan should abandon the disputed territories, Ma said they are part of the ROC and cannot be given up easily.
The islands in the South China Sea “are very important,” he said earlier this week in response to questions at a news conference with foreign correspondents based in Taiwan.
The region is rich in natural resources and is an important navigation channel for the ROC, Ma said.
“We should try to resolve the disputes through peaceful means, rather than give up the territory to deal with the problem,” Ma said.
Even if Taiwan abandons its claims, territorial disputes would still remain among the various claimants, he added.
The president reiterated his stance that all parties concerned should engage in negotiations in an effort to alleviate tensions and find resolutions.
“Our basic stance is that sovereignty cannot be compromised, but natural resources can be shared,” he said.
Based on those principles, Taiwan was able to address fishing disputes with Japan and the Philippines, he said, adding that the same model could also be applied to deal with disputes in the South China Sea.
The government claims that the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) and Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島), as well as the Macclesfield Bank (Zhongsha Islands, 中沙群島) and their surrounding waters are an inherent part of the nation.
However, the islands in the resource-rich South China Sea and their surrounding waters are also fully or partially claimed by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
Asked whether the government is worried about China’s land reclamation projects in the South China Sea, Ma said international law does not forbid such actions.
China is not the only nation engaged in such action, he said, adding that Vietnam is doing the same.
Actions that could trigger tensions in the region are not welcome, Ma said, urging joint efforts by all parties to explore resources.
On the question of whether Taiwan should deploy military personnel on Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) amid the simmering tensions in the South China Sea, Ma said that the nation will continue to post coast guard personnel there to defend its claim to the island.
“I do not think the use of force would be the best solution,” he said.