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President Ma distances Taiwan from China on Tiaoyutai dispute

2011/07/22 13:34:42

Tokyo, July 22 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou has ruled out the possibility of Taiwan aligning with China in dealing with issues related with the disputed Tiaoyutai Islands.

While making this stance clear in an interview with two major Japanese newspapers Yomiuri Shimbun and Nihon Keizai Shimbun on Thursday, Ma also expressed his hope that the sovereignty dispute over the uninhabited island group can be resolved through peaceful dialogue with Japan.

The Tiaoyutais, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, are a group of uninhabited islets that lie about 100 nautical miles off Taiwan's northeastern tip. They are currently controlled by Japan, but are also claimed by Taiwan and China.

The United States took control of the island group after World War II and handed them over to Japan along with Okinawa in 1972.

Ma said he has studied the Tiaoyutai issue for 40 years, and even wrote his Harvard doctoral dissertation on it. He contends the Tiaoyutais are Taiwan's traditional territories.

However, the President reassured Japanese readers that he will not let the sovereignty dispute affect relations with Japan.

Ma said he hopes both countries can shelve the sovereignty dispute and instead work together to explore resources in waters surrounding the Tiaoyutais, which are considered to be rich in oil reserves and other natural resources.

The Yomiuri Shimbun also said that Ma was referring to a squabble between China and Japan last September over a boat collision in the Tiaoyutai waters when he said Taiwan would not collaborate with China in handling Tiaoyutai-related issues.

The paper recalled that shortly after Ma took office in May 2008, nine Taiwanese patrol ships and private protest vessels entered Tiaoyuatai waters. At the time, the Yomiuri said, the Ma administration adopted an apparently strong attitude toward the issue.

But Ma later softened his stance and seriously considered steps to strengthen relations with Japan as he came to understand that frayed ties would do no good to Taiwan's security and economic well-being, the Japanese daily observed.

The Yomiuri further said that two days after eastern Japan was struck by a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March, the Ma administrtation announced a donation of NT$100 million (US$3.47 million) to help with post-disaster relief programs.

Moreover, President Ma took the lead in raising funds from the private sector to help Japanese tsunami victims. In the end, Taiwan emerged as the biggest donor to Japan's relief efforts, contributing over NT$6.2 billion.

(By Tsao Yuan and Sofia Wu)
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