Taiwan expects to enhance bilateral relations with Japan and South Korea after their respective leadership transitions tomorrow and in February, with the nation continuing to play a strategic role in the region, top foreign and security affairs officials said yesterday.
Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) and National Security Bureau Director Tsai Der-sheng (蔡得勝) reported to the legislature on the situation in East Asia under the leadership of Japan’s next likely prime minister, Shinzo Abe of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and South Korean president-elect Park Geun-hye of the New Frontier Party.
Since China remains a major threat that not a single country is able to confront alone, countries in the region have growing strategic interests in cooperating with each other, making the position of Taiwan even more important, Tsai told lawmakers at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.
Tsai said he did not expect the territorial disputes, which have raised tensions in the region, to be resolved when Abe, Park and China’s next president, Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平), assume power, because they are all “nationalists.”
Although the problems would continue, the leaders are expected to handle the disputes through dialogue in the initial phase of their administrations, Tsai said.
As the stalemate continues, conflicts may occur sporadically, but they will be “manageable,” he said.
All the leaders know well that they have limited leverage and it would not benefit anybody if the situation were to get out of control, Tsai said.
He added that Taiwan should be able to establish good relations with Japan under Abe’s leadership because the LDP has long held the view that Taiwan occupies a key position in the security of East Asia.
Park’s personal connections with Taiwan would help shape her policy on cross-strait relations, but bilateral exchanges between the South Korean and Taiwan would still be subject to Chinese pressure as Seoul has always been cautious in developing ties with Taiwan because it fears Beijing’s reaction, Tsai said.
Lin said tensions between Japan and South Korea because of the territorial dispute over Takeshima Islands in the Sea of Japan, known as the Dokdo Islands in South Korea, would ease under the new leaderships because they both face unpredictable military provocation from North Korea, as well as external threats from China.
The Japanese and South Korean leaders are likely to set aside their disputes and share a common stance on economic and diplomatic issues, Lin said.
After China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was commissioned and with Beijing trying to expand its influence beyond the “first island chain,” the US is expected to speed up the pace of its strategic pivot to Asia, Lin said.
The ministry will continue to develop substantial relations with the US, Japan and South Korea to safeguard the nation’s interests, Lin said.