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Ma reasserts ROC’s claim to Diaoyutais

SOVEREIGNTY STATEMENT: The president said Taipei and Tokyo should try to resolve their disputes peacefully, including negotiating fishing rights and sovereignty

By Ko Shu-ling and Flora Wang
Wednesday, Jun 18, 2008, Page 1

Japanese demonstrate in front of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Tokyo, Japan, yesterday. Members of the Japanese public gathered there in support of Japan’s claim of sovereignty over the Diaoyutai islands.


President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) asserted Taiwan’s sovereignty over the Diaoyutai (釣魚台) islands yesterday and called on Tokyo to negotiate fishing disputes and the issue of sovereignty calmly and peacefully. His comments came one week after a Japan Coast Guard vessel collided with a Taiwanese fishing boat that later sank.

“We are not trying to provoke anybody, but the Diaoyutais are part of our territory. Why can we not go there?” he said.

Ma said he hoped the dispute would not affect the friendly relations between the two countries and that he hoped to see Tokyo apologize as the families of the crew wanted the dispute to end peacefully.

Ma made the remarks during a meeting with local reporters at the Presidential Office yesterday afternoon.

Ma said that he would approve the resignation of Representative to Japan Koh Se-kai (�?�) and that he felt sorry that this had to happen.

He also expressed regret over Koh’s refusal to appear for an interpellation session at the legislature, saying it was the duty of a government official.

Ma said he realized that the sovereignty issue was an ongoing dispute between Taipei and Tokyo, but that both should make an effort to resolve the problem peacefully, including negotiating fishing rights and the sovereignty of the Diaoyutais.

“We are an independent sovereign state and we will do our best to protect our territory and sovereignty,” he said.

“We hope Japan will take into account the friendly and cooperative relations between Taipei and Tokyo. We must both take care to preserve such relations,” he said.

When asked whether he wanted to resolve the dispute over the sovereignty of the islands during his four-year term, Ma said that the public should not expect a quick resolution, but negotiating fishing rights was important to prevent similar incidents from happening.

Whether such negotiations would bear fruit depended on the attitude of Tokyo, Ma said, because Taipei could not do it alone.

The president, an avid defender of the nation’s sovereignty over the Diaoyutais when he was younger, has come under fire for failing to reassert sovereignty over the island chain following the June 10 incident.

Ma defended his position yesterday by saying that he was doing a better job in this regard than former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

Besides, such disputes were the business of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Government Information Office and the Coast Guard Administration, he said, adding that those agencies would be failing to do their jobs if the president had to “jump to the front line” following an incident like this.

The public should not expect the president to do so, he said.

While reports have claimed that the Presidential Office pressured legislators and the Ministry of National Defense into canceling a planned trip to claim sovereignty over the islands, Ma declined to confirm whether he had called a National Security Council meeting on Monday night and whether any cancelation was related to that meeting.

Ma said that he had first heard about the sinking of the fishing boat when Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) telephoned him on the morning of June 10.

He did not issue an immediate directive, but asked Liu to get a better understanding of the situation because it was a bad idea to “send in the armed forces if a boat sunk.”

Meanwhile, the premier told Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) during a question-and-answer session yesterday morning that Ma had given many instructions to the administration and that he was hoping to leave the door open for diplomatic mediation.

Liu said he made an earlier comment about not ruling out going to war with Japan because the captain of the boat was still being held by Japan at the time, but that the nation had to seek rational dialogue now that the captain had been released.

In another question-and-answer session later in the day, he urged Japan to demonstrate “greater sincerity and goodwill” to resolve the controversy.

He also urged Tokyo to resume negotiations with Taipei regarding fishing rights in the Diaoyutai area.

Meanwhile, Japanese Representative Tadashi Ikeda visited Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) at the legislature yesterday.

Ikeda declined to make any comment when approached by reporters.

But Wang told reporters afterward that Ikeda said both captains of the Taiwanese fishing boat and the Japanese patrol vessel should be held responsible for the incident, but the Japanese captain should shoulder the most responsibility.

Ikeda promised compensation to the owner of the fishing boat, Wang said.

Wang told reporters that Ikeda said Tokyo had demonstrated great sincerity to Taipei by saying that it “regretted” the incident.

“Although Japan said it had shown sincerity [to Taiwan] by using the diplomatic term ‘regret’ [in response to the incident], I told him that many people in Taiwan know that ‘regret’ is not equal to an apology,” he said.

Ikeda promised to pass on Wang’s opinion to Tokyo and see if Tokyo could adjust its comments in response to “Taiwan’s feelings,” Wang said.

Wang said he had also urged Ikeda to express Taiwan’s expectations that negotiations on fishing rights near the Diaoyutais should resume, adding that Ikeda also promised to communicate Wang’s viewpoint on that to Tokyo.

Wang said Ikeda visited him in a bid to seek help from the speaker to peacefully resolve the controversy and prevent further incidents from occurring.

Ikeda said he understood that both Taipei and Tokyo would not give in on the sovereignty issue, but both sides should maintain healthy relations and make a joint effort to maintain peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region, Wang told reporters.

Meanwhile, former DPP chairman Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) yesterday urged Ma to handle the dispute with Japan in a responsible and calm manner and cautioned on the dangers of “brinkmanship diplomacy.”

Hsieh, who visited Koh yesterday, said Koh had made an impressive contribution to Taiwan-Japan relations, and also did a good job negotiating with Tokyo on the fishing dispute.

He urged Ma to handle the matter responsibly and calmly and map out a well thought out, long-term strategy, instead of letting government agencies or individuals “set the prairie ablaze.”

The DPP legislative caucus also threw its support behind Koh yesterday, while condemning the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) for treating officials promoted by the former DPP government with contempt.

“They [the KMT] began to take aim at officials promoted by the DPP once they became the ruling party. It is ugly,” DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said at a press conference held at the caucus office yesterday morning.

Tsai was referring to the KMT legislative caucus’ continuous complaints about and criticism of Koh during the past few days.

Deputy caucus whip Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) said that Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) should be responsible for briefing the legislature, not Koh.

“If the KMT wanted to condemn Koh, they should have condemned Ou first,” Chiu said.

Another deputy whip, Pan Meng-an (潘孟安), said that KMT lawmakers had good reason for trying to force Koh from his post.

“KMT Legislator Lee Chia-chin [李嘉進] has been vying for Koh’s position. I am afraid that is why Lee has continued his criticism of Koh,” Pan said.

Japan played down the row yesterday.

“We have already agreed [with Taiwan] to handle the issue calmly, without getting excited,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura told a news conference.

Tokyo called for calm and said it was “very regrettable” that a protest boat along with nine patrol ships from Taiwan had entered Japanese territorial waters on Monday to protest last week’s sinking of the vessel.

The US State Department on Monday called on Japan and Taiwan to exercise restraint in the dispute.


Listen to the voice

KMT asked for arms freeze: report

‘LAW OF PHYSICS’: The KMT government asked for the freeze in US arms sales to ensure that talks on direct cross-strait flights proceeded smoothly, ‘Defense News’ reported

By Richard HazeldinE
Wednesday, Jun 18, 2008, Page 3

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government asked the US to halt weapons sales to Taiwan in order to curry favor with Beijing ahead of last week’s cross-strait negotiations, the latest edition of Defense News reported.

The periodical on Monday quoted unnamed sources as saying the temporary freeze had been requested because the new government, worried by a troubled beginning to its term, feared the arms issue could jeopardize a promised deal on direct cross-strait flights and the entry of Chinese tourists — key platforms of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) election campaign.

However, experts quoted by Defense News were concerned that the freeze, originally intended for the duration of the cross-strait negotiations, could extend until a new administration is installed in the White House next year.

The magazine quoted Mark Stokes, the Pentagon’s country director for China and Taiwan from 1997 to 2004, as saying: “It’s the law of physics. Once you lose that momentum, it’s nearly impossible to get it back.”

News of the arms freeze, which Defense News broke on Monday last week, caused concern among opposition legislators and Taiwan’s supporters in the US, who believed the US government was trying to placate China ahead of US President George W. Bush’s expected trip to the Beijing Olympics.

But Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said on Friday that the party had discovered the KMT was behind the suspension, and demanded that the government explain to the public why it had abandoned arms procurements.

The freeze affects some US$12 billion in advanced weaponry that military experts say is crucial if Taiwan is to maintain a position of strength in negotiations with China.

Defense News also clarified its earlier report on elements in the US government that want arms sales to Taiwan ended. It quoted an unnamed US government official as saying that officials dubbed as “panda huggers” in the US embassy in Beijing, the US Treasury Department and the US State Department were conspiring to stop arms sales to Taipei independent of the KMT government’s agenda.

The official was quoted as saying the reasons included opening Chinese markets to US firms, sustaining the six-party talks with North Korea and the future private commercial interests of US officials.

Taiwan’s representative in Wa­shington Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said yesterday there had been no disruption to the arms procurement process and that Taipei would maintain its policy of procuring weapons from the US.

Wu, who is set to be replaced as Taiwan’s envoy, said the government remained committed to acquiring the weapons.

“It is incorrect to say that the Bush administration has no intention of selling arms to Taiwan in the remainder of its term,” he said.

Meanwhile, the DPP yesterday alleged that a top US official visited the Presidential Office after Ma’s inauguration to meet National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi (蘇起).

Cheng said Su told the official “point blank” that to improve cross-strait relations, arms procurements would have to be suspended.

The DPP said Ma was not present at the meeting.

The head of the party’s Department of International Affairs, Lin Chen-wei (林成蔚), said the Presidential Office should state whether Ma was aware of Su’s actions, and called on Ma to state his position on Su’s strategy.

Listen to the voice

Diaoyutai islets are not part of Taiwan

By Li To-Tzu 李拓梓
Wednesday, Jun 18, 2008, Page 8

Based upon the principles of first discovery and effective occupation of terra nullius, or land belonging to no one, the Diaoyutai (釣魚台) islands unquestionably belong to Japan. If the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) cites history and locale as proof of Taiwan’s sovereignty over the Diaoyutais, then the Taiwanese government could lose its firm footing in arguing for sovereignty over the island of Taiwan itself and of the Spratly Islands (南沙群島) in the South China Sea.

It is confounding to see that while the government of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) seems to be indifferent to safeguarding sovereignty over the island of Taiwan, it does not hesitate to threaten violence against an ally over an uninhabited island that does not belong to Taiwan in the first place.

The intense criticism of the Ma government’s Diaoyutai policy should be considered on two levels. The criticism from KMT members is earnest: They had previously, for inexplicable reasons, obeyed the KMT’s urging and participated in youth movements to “save the Diaoyutais,” believing that the islands are Chinese territory. This, combined with anti-Japanese conditioning, naturally makes their blood boil at the current controversy.

Criticism from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), however, comes from the preconditioning that China is the perceived enemy. The DPP holds friendly relations between Japan and Taiwan in higher regard and is more practical in regard to the Diaoyutai issue. Their criticism of the Ma government’s cowardly behavior was not meant to provoke a tough response from the government, but to force it to admit that its previously impractical policy on the Diaoyutai issue was a mistake.

Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) obviously does not make this distinction. Under criticism from both the pan-blue and pan-green camps, Liu rashly recalled Koh Se-kai (�?�), the Taiwanese representative to Japan. Some have also used the incident to shame Koh and force him to resign. Under fire from legislators, Liu has even declared that war would not be ruled out as a last resort.

One must realize that recognizing a past mistake and being criticized for a mistake are incentives for self-correction — not an encouragement to stubbornly stick to a policy that hurts the nation. The Ma administration should courageously admit that its previous incitement of foolish bravado to protect the Diaoyutais was a mistake — instead of turning around and challenging a major ally to war.

Taiwan and Japan have developed very good relations in the last eight years and their close cooperation on security issues has obviously been a deterrent to China. However, this strategy seems to have changed since the KMT assumed power. Pan-blue politicians have increasingly traveled to China and Taiwan’s main perceived enemy no longer seems to be China.

If so, shouldn’t the national strategy, drawn in accordance with the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between Japan and the US, be adjusted? The KMT should be proactive in explaining the situation so the public can make a decision. If the KMT still values the treaty, taking a tough stance on such a minor issue as the Diaoyutais is unwise. If it does not need the treaty, then it should explain to the public its new national defense strategy.

The current confusion over Diaoyutais can only mean two things: Either the Ma government wants to change Taiwan’s national defense strategy on the sly, or Liu was caught unaware and has no stance on Asia-Pacific military strategy. Judging by the government’s recent decisions on hiking gas and electricity prices, the latter possibility seems more likely.

Li To-tzu is a doctoral student at Tsing Hua University’s Institute of Sociology.

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