Sat, Sep 09, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan could help resolve territorial dispute: UK expert

Staff writer, with CNA

Taiwan could play an important role in resolving the South China Sea dispute as it was the Republic of China that first claimed sovereignty over the region and it still has many historical documents on the issue, a visiting British expert said yesterday.

“I think Taiwan could play a really important role in resolving the dispute, because, of course, the claim really started with the Republic of China in the early 20th century,” said Bill Hayton, an associate fellow at Chatham House, an international policy institute based in London.

Many of the historical archives are stored in Taiwan, where political openness makes it easier to discuss sovereignty claims than in China or Vietnam, he said.

By presenting its historical documents on the South China Sea, Hayton said Taipei could demonstrate that the more exaggerated claims made by Beijing are not supported by historical evidence.

Such an approach could take some of the heat out of the dispute, he said.

It is clear Taiwan has occupied Itu Aba (Taiping Island, 太平島) for 70 years, he said, adding that “clearly you have the best claim to that feature.”

President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) proposal to make the island an international humanitarian relief and resupply base is “a good way and good step to reduce tension,” he said.

All claimants still need to have practical discussions on how to realize such a proposal, he added.

Everybody has to be “realistic” and recognize that no nation is going to get 100 percent of what it wants, he said.

He made the remarks on the sidelines of a seminar organized by the South China Sea Think Tank, a Taipei-based nonprofit organization that promotes dialogue, research and education on South China Sea-related issues.

In his lecture titled “The Modern Origins of China’s Claims in the South China Sea,” Hayton said the current tensions in the area can be traced back to the origins of China’s claims in the early 20th century.

He presented evidence that Beijing’s claim to islands in the South China Sea was made in 1909 and further expanded after 1933.

The claim is more modern than ancient, as China insists, and has developed in response to domestic political crises, he said.

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