Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials yesterday said that DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) had chosen Japan as the destination of his first overseas trip since assuming his post last year because the party is worried about how the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) seems to be collaborating with China on the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) issue against Japan.
Su, accompanied by foreign policy experts and several legislators, left for Japan yesterday.
The Ma administration’s actions, such as dispatching Coast Guard Administration vessels to accompany Taiwanese fishing boats heading for the islands, have led to water cannon clashes with the Japanese coast guard.
These could be misinterpreted by the international community as a sign that China and Taiwan are one country — a common misconception — or cause foreign nations to view all Taiwan-related issues as Chinese issues, party officials said.
After the Japanese government bought three of the Diaoyutais — which the Japanese call the Senkakus — in September last year, the islands have been a major point of tension between the three countries that claim them: Taiwan, China and Japan. The spat has caused Sino-Japanese ties to nose-dive to their lowest point since 2010.
The party said that Su had made plans shortly after being elected chairman to visit Japan and the US, and to conduct party diplomacy with both nations. It added that having good relations with the US and Japan formed the core of the party’s diplomatic efforts.
Su plans to visit the US in May after the party’s new US representative office — the party’s former office was closed after the DPP won the presidential election in 2000 — is inaugurated.
Party officials say Su hopes that when the Diaoyutais issue inevitably surfaces during this week’s trip, he can convey to his Japanese counterparts that the DPP wishes to distance itself from a Taipei-Beijing alliance against Japan in the sovereignty dispute.
The DPP sees Taiwan-Japan relations under the context of the US-Japan alliance, unlike the Ma administration, which views Taiwan-Japan relations in light of cross-strait relations, party officials said.
The party hopes that Taipei and Tokyo can agree on a peaceful resolution despite their conflicting views on the island chain’s sovereignty and that friendly bilateral relations do not suffer because of the spat, party officials said.
They added that many Japanese politicians are worried about the Ma government’s pro-China inclination, as well as China’s economic and military rise.
However, the officials said the DPP would hold firm on protecting Taiwan’s sovereignty and insisting that the Diaoyutais are part of the nation’s territory.
The party has much to do if it wishes to return to the Presidential Office and foremost on the list is to earn the trust of the US, Japan, and other influential nations, party officials said.