Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) on Saturday said that a short film the ministry released a day earlier was meant to help Taiwanese understand the nation’s sovereignty over the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in a “lively way.”
Lin said he hoped the 15-minute film, which features local comedian Honduras as a talk show host, can help people understand the historical and geographic links between Taiwan and the Diaoyutais, as well as the country’s legitimate rights to the islets in terms of international law.
Amid public criticism that the film seems flippant, Lin said it was a new approach by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to raise awareness of issues in a lively way.
The most important issue involving the islands is the East China Sea peace initiative proposed by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), which urges all claimants to refrain from hostile actions, put aside their differences, not abandon dialogue, observe international law and resolve their disputes through peaceful means, Lin said.
Ma’s initiative also calls on all parties to seek consensus on a code of conduct for the East China Sea issue and establish a mechanism for cooperation on exploring and developing resources in the region.
That same day, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) criticized the film as disrespectful and said it brought disgrace to the country.
She questioned the use of the phrase “yin mou” in the film to allude to Japan’s claim to the islands, saying that it means “conspiracy.”
Hsiao said she had telephoned Lin and asked that the film be withdrawn, but was told that “foreigners will not see this.”
Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Vanessa Shih (史亞平) met with Hsiao and told her that the intention of the film was not to insult anyone, but only to explain serious issues in a lighthearted manner.
The short film, the first in a three-part series, can be viewed on the Internet.
The second and third segments are also to be posted on the ministry’s Web site and on YouTube soon, the ministry said.
In spite of the controversy triggered by the film, ministry spokesman Steve Hsia (夏季昌) said a preliminary meeting between Taiwan and Japan over fishing rights in the Diaoyutais area would not be affected.
Lin said he hoped such a meeting could take place at the end of the month or early next month. Hsia said both sides were still working to schedule the date of the preliminary meeting.
Located about 120 nautical miles (220km) northeast of Taipei, the Diaoyutai Islands have been under Japan’s administrative control since 1972, but are also claimed by Taiwan and China.