Foreign experts on marine law, policy and sciences yesterday gathered in Kaohsiung for the International Dongsha Conference, where an Indonesian expert urged nations in the South China Sea area — including Taiwan and China — to conduct “informal” research programs together.
The two-day conference on the Pratas Islands, which Taiwan calls the Dongsha Islands (東沙群島) and administers as a national park, opened on Thursday.
On the first day, Ocean Affairs Council Deputy Minister Chuang Ching-ta (莊慶達) accompanied Kiribati Ambassador to Taiwan Tessie Eria Lambourne; Thailand Trade and Economic Office Executive Director Thongchai Chasawath; and nearly 70 experts from the US, UK, Canada, Belgium, Japan, Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines on a visit to the atoll.
It was the first international meeting hosted by the council since its creation on April 28 last year, council Minister Lee Chung-wei (李仲威) told the gathering in Kaohsiung yesterday.
That conference aimed to promote Taiwan’s ecological conservation efforts on the atoll and included speeches related to marine law and policy, ocean research, maritime industry and culture, he said.
How to promote joint research projects became a focal issue during the first panel discussion coordinated by Lin Cheng-yi (林正義), director of the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, a think tank inaugurated last year by the Ministry of National Defense.
Hasjim Djalal, a former Indonesian ambassador to the UN and founder of Indonesia’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies, raised concerns over the problem of marine waste, citing as examples the Philippines’ and Malaysia’s refusals to import plastic waste from other countries.
He urged nations in the region to undertake informal scientific research dealing with the marine environment and biodiversity without touching on territorial disputes.
From the audience, Academia Sinica Institute of European and American Studies research fellow Song Yann-huei (宋燕輝) asked Djalal if Indonesia would invite US President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to attend the 30th Workshop on Managing Potential Conflicts in the South China Sea next year.
The anniversary should be marked by the attendance of higher authorities from across the globe, Song said, adding that Taiwanese experts have informally participated in the workshop since 1991.
Djalal said that they would invite those interested in attending the meeting, but have not yet decided on the invitees.
As China and ASEAN members are drafting a South China Sea code of conduct, Taiwan should voice its desire to join the code or assert its importance in the region through other ways, Song said.
Even if Taiwan claims the Pratas Islands and Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島), it might be rejected from regional collaboration, such as law enforcement and disaster rescue efforts, if it does not play a part in the code, he said.
Lacking direct access to the draft code, the council has been collecting related information through think tanks and other channels, Department of International Development Director Joseph Hsieh (謝亞杰) said.
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