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Taiwan rules out cooperation with China on South China Sea issue

2016/07/13 18:40:25

South China Sea. (File photo courtesy of the Air Force)

Taipei, July 13 (CNA) Taiwan has ruled out the possibility of cross-strait cooperation on the South China Sea issue after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague handed down its ruling on the disputes in the area that has been considered unfavorable to China.

China's Foreign Ministry and Taiwan Affairs Office late Tuesday both made the call for Taiwan "to join hands with China in safeguarding the sovereignty of the South China Sea islands and the rights in the surrounding waters," saying that all these "have been the traditional assets of the Chinese people."

"There has been no dialogue or communication between Taiwan and China on the South China Sea issue after the release of the court ruling," said Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council head Chang Hsiao-yueh (張小月) Wednesday at a legislative session.

Chang, however, said but each side is trying to safeguard their rights based on their own interests.

Chang's deputy, Lin Cheng-yi (林正義), said the government "will not cooperate with China on the sovereignty issue in the South China Sea."

Beijing may consider the South China Sea issue the biggest challenge to itself diplomatically, and may thus somehow ease its attitude toward Taiwan, Lin said.

Cross-strait relations have been described as being in a state of "cold-peace" since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has refused to compromise on the "1992 consensus" issue as requested by Beijing.

The consensus, which had been adopted by the government of former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in dealing with China, refers to a tacit understanding reached between the two sides that there is only one China with each side free to interpret what it means.

The Hague-based arbitration court ruled Tuesday that China has no legal basis to claim historic rights to resources in the South China Sea areas falling within the "nine-dash line" and that all high-tide features in the Spratly Islands, including Taiwan-controlled Taiping Island (also known as Itu Aba), are legally "rocks."

In the case brought by the Philippines against China over South China Sea disputes, the court said there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or resources on the islands in the South China Sea. There is therefore no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the "nine-dash line," the court said in its ruling.

The Philippines brought the case against China in the Court, arguing that the land formations claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea are not islands and therefore are not entitled to 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zones.

While Taiwan is not party to the case, its claims in the South China Sea are similar to those of China, and Taiping Island was brought up in testimony during the court hearings. Both Taiwan and China have said the ruling is "unacceptable" to and non-binding on them.

Six countries -- Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei -- claim part or all of the islands in the resource-rich South China Sea and their surrounding waters.

(By Tang Pei-chun, Chen Chun-hua and Bear Lee)
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