President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday dismissed concerns about the possible negative repercussions on US-Taiwan relations that recent confrontations with Japan over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) may have had, insisting that bilateral relations were proceeding under a “zero-accident” policy.
In an interview with TVBS, Ma denied that the absence of senior US defense and diplomatic officials from the Taiwan-US Defense Industry Conference on Sunday was the result of Washington’s displeasure with the Ma administration’s policy on the Diaoyutais and said that Taiwan was defending national sovereignty over the islands — three of which were nationalized by Japan last week — in a “rational way.”
“The meeting has nothing to do with the Diaoyutais sovereignty issue. We learned about [the absence of senior US officials] beforehand ... The US maintains a neutral stance on the issue,” he said.
Speculation about the US’ dissatisfaction with the Ma administration’s handling of the issue emerged after a high-seas conflict erupted between Taiwanese vessels and Japanese patrol boats last month. The spat was sparked by 75 Taiwanese boats setting sail for the Diaoyutais in a bid to assert Taiwanese sovereignty over the islands and to defend fishery rights.
Ma said that Taiwanese vessels did not initiate any confrontation during the sortie and insisted that the waters around the island chain had been the fishing grounds of Taiwanese fishermen for decades and that the government fully supports their moves to protect their rights.
With the US government expected to announce Taiwan’s membership of its US Visa-Waiver Program, Ma said the government was waiting for the US to complete all the associated procedures and said that the immigration policy should be reached within the foreseeable future.
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US said on Monday that members of the US Congress have issued 382 letters and statements in recognition of Taiwan’s democratic achievements, ahead of National Day on Oct. 10.
In their letters, the US congressmen said Taiwan needs to strengthen its military capabilities and that they will ensure that the US continues to safeguard Taiwan’s security based on the Taiwan Relations Act.
In addition, they expressed support for the country’s participation in the International Civil Aviation Organization and other UN-affiliated agencies, the office said.
About 28 senators and congressmen released individual statements in praise of Taiwan as a role model of democratic development in Asia and as an important trade partner for the US, the office said.
While touting the government’s achievements in foreign affairs and in defending sovereignty, Ma acknowledged public dissatisfaction with the implementation of domestic policies and said he would instruct the Cabinet to present concrete achievements within one month.
“It is difficult for us to make all the people feel satisfied with our policies, but we will work hard to make it happen,” he said.
Amid growing complaints about the Cabinet, Ma insisted that the government has implemented policies that will boost the economy.
“We accept public criticism with humility, but if anyone describes our good policies as empty slogans then that is not true,” he said.
Additional reporting by CNA