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PRC broke deal on disputed gas field, Tokyo says

Monday, Jan 05, 2009, Page 1

China has violated an agreement with Japan by continuing to develop a gas field in a disputed area in the East China Sea, a press report said yesterday.

The neighbors struck a deal in June last year to end a lingering spat over four Chinese undersea gas fields which, Japan said, extend or potentially extend into its exclusive economic zone.

Under the deal, Japan and China would jointly develop the gas fields. Japan agreed to invest in one of them while the two sides continued talks on the remaining three.

But Japan said that China has since begun exploring one of the disputed fields, named Tianwaitian, the Sankei Shimbun reported, citing unspecified government sources.

“There is a strong possibility that China has completed drilling work and entered the stage of production” in the field, the Sankei said.

Japanese patrol planes spotted brown discoloration and fierce bubbling of water near a platform in the Tianwaitian field in July and afterward, the paper said.

The phenomena might be a sign of underwater drilling, the Japanese Resources and Energy Agency was quoted as saying.

Long pipes were seen being removed from the platform in October after they had been there since June, indicating that they had been used in drilling, the Sankei said.

“The Chinese side has insisted on its own development of the fields and our fears that they might go ahead with unilateral development have become a reality,” a government official was quoted as saying.

China insists its sovereign economic zone in the East China Sea extends over its continental shelf — almost to Okinawa.

But Japan considers the midway point between the shorelines of the two countries as the economic boundary while their 370km exclusive economic zones overlap.





China policy comes at high cost

By Tung Chen-yuan 童振源
Monday, Jan 05, 2009, Page 8

Changes in the cross-strait relationship over the seven months since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office include a cooling-off in the cross-strait political standoff, the resumption of talks between the Straits Exchange Foundation and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) and increased economic deregulation.

However, Taiwan has had to pay a heavy political price for this relaxation. These costs include having to accept the “one China” framework, denigrating Taiwanese sovereignty, confusing the nation’s status, destroying Taiwanese identity and sacrificing human rights and freedom.

First of all, Ma stresses that the “1992 consensus” implies “one China” with each side having its own interpretation. China — at most — allows that both sides of the Taiwan Strait agree that there is only one China but disagree on how to define it. It has never agreed that the two sides can have their own interpretation of the “one China” principle.

Since Ma took office on May 20, the Chinese government has made it clear on many occasions that no matter what changes occur in cross-strait relations, the “one China” principle will never change. The problem for Taiwan is that because the international community generally accepts China’s definition, Taiwan has to accept the “one China” framework.

Secondly, the Ma administration is denigrating Taiwan’s sovereign status. During his election campaign, Ma said Taiwan was a sovereign and democratic country and on May 21, Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) said it was a sovereign and independent country.

However, in early September, the Ma administration referred to Taiwan as an “area.” Ma is a symbol of Taiwan’s sovereignty, but neglecting national dignity, he was happy to have ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) refer to him as “Mr Ma” while visiting Taiwan. Even after much public protest, Ma accepted being addressed as “you” by Chen. These incidents greatly damaged Taiwan’s national sovereignty.

Ma is blurring Taiwan’s national status. During his election campaign, Ma said “Taiwan” was the Republic of China (ROC). However, after taking office, he said the ROC was “one China” and that this was stipulated in the Constitution and that as president he must act in accord with the Constitution.

However, on many occasions when explaining Taiwan’s position to other countries, Ma has used the term “Taiwan” as shorthand for the ROC. Not once has he said that he is the leader of China or referred to Taiwan as China. Therefore, whether the “ROC” refers to Taiwan or China is unclear.

The Ma government has destroyed Taiwan’s identity. During his election campaign, Ma said he was Taiwanese, that “the future of Taiwan must be decided by the people of Taiwan,” that “Taiwan’s future has nothing to do with China” and that he “will not stand for China interfering in Taiwan’s affairs.”

However, in his inauguration speech, he said both sides of the Taiwan Strait were Chinese and in late October, he said the people in China and Taiwan only had different household registrations, but not different nationalities. According to Ma, the 23 million people of Taiwan and the 1.3 billion people of China were the same people and shared the same nation.

Lastly, the government has also sacrificed human rights and freedom. During his election campaign, Ma strongly criticized the Chinese government for the Tiananmen Square Massacre and the more recent suppression of riots in Tibet. However, after being elected, Ma responded to questions about the Tiananmen Square Massacre by saying the Chinese government had made great improvements over the past 30 years. He also stopped criticizing China’s abuse of human rights and freedom. Early last month, when the Dalai Lama expressed interest in visiting Taiwan, Ma quickly said the time was not right. The Presidential Office later said that this was based on concern for the development of cross-strait relations.

Former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) policy toward China can be summed up as a “clear position on sovereignty and striking a balance between politics and economics,” while Ma’s China strategy can be described as “erosion of sovereignty, political submission and economic deregulation.”

China can break off cross-strait economic negotiations and deregulation at any time and it has not made any clear military or diplomatic concessions to Taiwan. This means that China will be stronger and have more bargaining chips for cross-strait interaction in the long-term. Under such circumstances, it appears Taiwan will be totally reliant on China’s goodwill.

Tung Chen-yuan is associate professor in the Graduate Institute of Development Studies in the College of Social Sciences in National Chengchi University.


Cross-strait policy helps nothing

Monday, Jan 05, 2009, Page 8

Since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his government assumed office, many people have been dissatisfied with the China-leaning cross-strait policies that have damaged Taiwan’s sovereignty, economy and diplomacy. A self-satisfied Ma, however, cannot see his failures and the resulting crises.

Last Sunday, the Cabinet held a seminar for senior Cabinet officials on Chinese affairs. At the seminar, Ma failed to show any signs of reflection on his failures or apologize to the public, but rather attempted to protect himself from many of the public’s concerns with a host of specious arguments. Ma said his cross-strait policies are successful and that all that is needed is stronger cross-departmental communication and promotion of his policies for the public to realize the benefits of his relaxed China policies. He also refused to recognize the efforts of the former government in upholding Taiwanese sovereignty and made it clear that he was not willing to engage in cut-throat competition with other nations or resort to diplomatic methods that provoke China.

The failure of the administration’s China policy has caused it to give more than it has gained in terms of both sovereignty and practical benefits. In other words, many of the government’s concessions in the realm of sovereignty were made for practical benefits to the nation. However, after making these concessions, China took full advantage of the situation and Taiwan ended up gaining much less than it gave up.

Many people are having a hard time figuring out what the Ma administration is doing. There are many examples of how Taiwan has lost out as a result of its China policies. One example is how Taiwanese gravel transport ships were recently refused entry to Chinese seaports.

The government has been wildly celebrating its success in establishing the direct three links with China, so it is hard to believe that only days later, Taiwanese gravel transport ships with proper documentation were refused entry into Chinese ports. People in the gravel industry said Taiwan imports 30 million tonnes of gravel from China each year, 75 percent of which is brought on Taiwanese-owned ships while the rest is brought on Chinese-owned ships. However, China is now using the excuse that Taiwan’s ships are “too old.” It has effectively imposed a technical barrier to trade on Taiwan and in doing so, Taiwan’s gravel market will now be totally controlled by China.

The Ma government constantly criticizes the former administration for failing to establish the three direct links with China, a decision which they say damaged Taiwan’s sea and air cargo industries and stopped Taiwan from becoming an Asia-Pacific transportation hub. After the Ma government came into power, it actively promoted direct flights with China and the three links. These have now been achieved, but all the benefits Ma said these developments would bring have not appeared, just as Ma has been unable to deliver on his “6-3-3” economic policy.

The problems Taiwan’s gravel shippers are experiencing are just the tip of the iceberg. In terms of direct cargo links between Taiwan and China, the most profitable factor for Taiwan would be the acquisition of navigation rights for inland China. However, Taiwan has still not secured these rights. Therefore, when Taiwanese shipping companies want to ship goods made by Taiwanese businesses from inland China, they must have the goods transshipped several times, greatly increasing costs and time. This is making them less competitive than their Chinese counterparts. These circumstances give China’s shipping industry unfair advantages.

Direct flights pose an even greater threat to Taiwan. Ma’s original plan was to use them to facilitate travel between Taiwan and China for Taiwanese businesspeople and to encourage them to return to Taiwan and invest here, set up operational headquarters in Taiwan and to attract a large number of Chinese tourists. Now that direct flights have been established, it can only be expected that they will be used by Taiwanese businesspeople who previously had to transfer and that the direct links will not encourage Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan. Because of cheaper airline tickets and the lower cost of traveling in China, the direct flights will only cause a greater number of Taiwanese tourists to go to China. This will have a heavy impact on Taiwan’s already struggling tourism industry.

Of particular importance are the “beyond rights” for air travel because they hold a lot potential for profit. However, Taiwan has been unable to obtain these rights, which means that Taiwan’s airlines cannot fly on to other destinations in Central and Southeast Asia and Europe. However, Chinese-owned airlines returning from Taiwan can continue via these routes. Such unfair circumstances will threaten the existence of Taiwan’s airlines.

It was a bad choice by the Ma administration to make concessions to China. To make matters worse, these concessions are one-sided, with no commitment from China and they have brought no substantial economic benefits for Taiwan. It now seems the Ma government is hoping that China has a conscience and will decide to give Taiwan something in return. However, reality and hopes clash and the more concessions the government makes, the more bargaining chips Taiwan will lose. While the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party appear to be getting on, Taiwan is in fact on the brink of being swallowed up by China.


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