President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said that the East China Sea peace initiative, his proposal for a mutually beneficial solution to territorial disputes in the region, meets the best interests of all nations involved.
“Taiwan wants to position itself as a peacemaker in the region,” the president said at a forum in Taipei organized by the Prospect Foundation that brought together experts from 20 countries to discuss the initiative’s possible impacts amid rising regional tensions.
The initiative is promising because it allows countries with claims on or around the Dioayutai Islands (釣魚台) to establish a mechanism for cooperation and joint exploration of resources without having to compromise their sovereignty, Ma said.
The Diaoyutais, called the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyu Archipelago (釣魚群島) in China, lie about 120 nautical miles (220km) northeast of Taipei.
The islands have been under Japan’s administrative control since 1972, but are also claimed by Taiwan and China.
Tensions have been high in the region since the Japanese government purchased three of the uninhabited islets from a private owner in September last year in an attempt to reinforce its sovereignty claim.
The spirit of the peace initiative can also be applied to other disputes, like the row that erupted after Philippine Coast Guard personnel killed a Taiwanese fisherman in May, the president said.
In recognition of the importance of peace, Taipei and Manila have agreed to hold a meeting to discuss ways to resolve the spat.
Likely issues for discussion include how to avoid the use of force, notifying each other in the event of fishing boat incidents and the immediate release of detained fishermen and boats, Ma said.
A patrol vessel from the Philippines opened fire on May 9 on Taiwanese fishing vessel, the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, in an overlapping exclusive economic zone claimed by the two countries.
Taiwan responded to the incident by imposing sanctions on the Philippines, including a freeze on hiring Filipino workers, issuing a “red” travel advisory and revoking visa-free privileges for Philippine citizens with US, Schengen or Japanese visas.
Both nations have conducted investigations into the shooting, but neither has yet released its report.