President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday called for a trilateral dialogue between Taiwan, Japan and China to resolve sovereignty disputes over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), while stressing that the nation would not recognize Japan’s plan to purchase three of the islands.
“The Japanese government’s move violates international laws and is an act of invasion and theft. The Republic of China (ROC) government will not recognize any of Japan’s moves to either nationalize or privatize the islands,” he said during a trip to Pengjia Islet (彭佳嶼).
Ma visited Pengjia, which lies 56km off Keelung and 141km west of the Diaoyutais, apparently to assert the nation’s sovereignty over the island chain.
The trip came amid media reports that the Japanese government has planned to claim sovereignty over the Diaoyutais by purchasing three islets in the Diaoyutai chain from private owners.
In defending Taiwan’s sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands, Ma yesterday proposed the dialogue between Taiwan, China and Japan to address the issue, calling on the interested parties to shelve their differences, pursue peace and reciprocity and jointly explore the natural resources in the area.
As a follow-up to his “East China Sea peace initiative,” Ma said the three competing nations could start with what he called “three-sided bilateral dialogues” before moving on to trilateral dialogues, to discuss cooperation in the fishing and mining industries, as well as on environmental and security issues.
“We will not make any concessions on national sovereignty, but the three parties could share the natural resources and jointly develop the areas … There could be more serious confrontations or wars if we do not resolve the dispute peacefully and I hope we can work together to find a solution,” he said.
While stressing the government’s efforts to improve bilateral relations with Japan, Ma said the government will not rule out resolving the dispute via international meditation or lawsuits if necessary.
In response to opposition parties’ calls for Ma to visit the Diaoyutais instead if he meant to underscore the nation’s sovereignty over the islands, Ma said he has no plans to set foot on the Diaoyutais yet, but insisted that the government would seek to resolve the dispute through negotiations.
“I urge the opposition to work with the government on this issue. The Diaoyutais have been part of our offshore islands since the Ming Dynasty and asserting our sovereignty over them is vital to protecting the rights of our fishermen. It’s important to stop wasting time on unnecessary confrontations,” he said.
The helicopter trip was Ma’s first visit to Pengjia. Accompanied by Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源), Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱) and National Security Council Secretary-General Hu Wei-jen (胡為真), as well as six Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers, he inspected the islet’s weather station and lighthouse and chatted with Coast Guard Administration personnel (CGA).
Upon Ma’s arrival, two Mirage 2000 fighter jets flew by to pay tribute to the president. Two F-16 fighter jets also flew by when he made the speech about the Diaoyutai Islands in front of the Pengjia Islet monument.
The monument was commissioned by then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) when he visited the disputed islet in 2005. Ma was careful to avoid making the speech in front of the side that is marked with Chen’s signature on it.
In preparation of Ma’s visit, the coast guard dispatched seven vessels to patrol the waters off the nation’s northern and northeastern coasts, and sent a vessel to transport about 50 reporters who had been invited to cover the event.
The coast guard said it has conducted emergency rescue drills and prepared for the activity for over a month.
Ma yesterday thanked the CGA for defending the nation’s waters since its establishment 12 years ago. Citing geographic reasons as well as historical documents to defend Taiwan’s sovereignty over the Diaoyutais, Ma said that the islands have long been traditional fishing grounds of fishermen in Yilan and Keelung. The president also pledged that the coast guard would continue to protect Taiwanese fishermen operating in the waters there.
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