US mediation likely vital: forum

DEATH OF A FISHERMAN::A public hearing hosted by a third party, such as the US, could help resolve the diplomatic stalemate with the Philippines, an academic said

By Chris Wang  /  Staff reporter

Wed, May 22, 2013 - Page 3

Washington’s mediation is likely needed to resolve the diplomatic row between Taiwan and the Philippines over the death of a Taiwanese fisherman, an academic told a symposium yesterday.

“As bilateral tensions remain strong and communication appears to have stalled, US intermediation could be the best way to bring an end to the diplomatic row,” said David Huang (黃偉峰), a researcher at Academia Sinica and a former deputy representative to the US.

Huang was speaking at a symposium organized by former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) to examine Taipei and Manila’s handling of the controversy over the death of fisherman Hung Shih-cheng (洪石城), who was shot dead by Philippine Coast Guard personnel on May 9.

Although both sides are still negotiating over a parallel investigation, Huang said the fact-finding phase was over and neither side would trust each other’s finding, which is why a public hearing hosted by a third party, preferably the US, could be helpful in clearing up the case.

Like other participants in the symposium, Huang said Taipei had performed poorly in the diplomatic war with Manila, which had a complete set of scenario planning after defining the shooting incident as an unfortunate accident from the first moment and has never given up that position.

In contrast, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has been slow to present the evidence it had obtained in the investigation and in responding to Manila’s strategy, he said.

Huang also expressed strong opposition to Taiwan’s recent military exercise in the two nations’ overlapping exclusive economic zones in the Bashi Channel, because it could be interpreted as a move threatening regional stability and turn Taiwan’s role as a victim into a perpetrator.

Taiwan’s failure to publicize the information it had obtained in the case to the international community was apparent, as was its inconsistent positions to the Philippines’ response toward its 72-hour ultimatum and the subsequent sanctions, Lu said.

She also singled out Representative to the US King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) for failing to garner support in Washington, which appears to have favored Manila in the case.

DPP Legislator Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said Ma had handled the diplomatic affair so poorly that “his crisis management has become a crisis itself.”

However, the diplomatic row could be a blessing in disguise in the long run, Lu said, as it was a reminder for Taiwan, an island country, that a comprehensive policy on maritime affairs, especially in relation to the East China Sea and the South China Sea, was imperative.

The former vice president urged Ma to organize a national conference to review and map out a comprehensive maritime policy.

Song Yann-huei (宋燕輝), a research fellow at the Institute of European and American Studies at Academia Sinica, echoed Lu’s appeal, saying that the conflict provides Taiwan a window of opportunity to establish its maritime strategy because, in the long run, it would have to deal with ASEAN countries, such as Vietnam, on the South China Sea issue.