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Talk of the day -- Taiwan's peace initiative path to regional harmony

2012/08/07 22:57:37

President Ma Ying-jeou proposed a solution Aug. 5 to the long-running territorial dispute over the Tiaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea amid rising tension in the region.

Japan and China, both of which -- along with Taiwan -- claim sovereignty over the island group, have been taking more aggressive approaches to the row.

In what he called the East China Peace Initiative, Ma urged all parties including Taiwan to refrain from taking antagonistic action, to shelve their differences, to not abandon dialogue, to observe international law and to resolve the dispute via peaceful means.

He also suggested that all parties concerned seek consensus on a code of conduct for the East China Sea and establish a mechanism for cooperation on exploring and developing resources in the region.

The initiative from Ma, who described himself as a long-time activist in the local Tiaoyutai movement, has won support from many local scholars and experts. The following are excerpts of articles on the issue from the opinion pages of local newspapers:

Apple Daily:

Chen I-hsin, a professor at Tamkang University who specializes in U.S.-Taiwan-China relations and national security, described the peace initiative -- which comes at a time when Japan is moving toward nationalizing the Tiaoyutais and China is sending patrol boats to the area on a more frequent basis -- as the best way for China, Japan and the United States to find a way out of the predicament.

The U.S., which maintains security relations with Japan, has publicly voiced desire for the territorial row to be resolved peacefully. According to Chen, U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton tried but failed during a visit to Japan in July to persuade Tokyo into giving up its moves to nationalize the Tiaoyutais, known as the Diaoyutai Islands in China and the Senkaku Islands in Japan.

It is even tougher for Washington to ask China to exercise self-restraint because of its role in the regional strategic balance, Chen said.

Amid the spiraling tension in the East China Sea and the rise of a sense of nationalism in the countries that claim the Tiaoyutais, Ma's peace initiative comes as "a stitch in time that saves nine," he said.

United Daily News:

The East China Sea Peace Initiative has been proposed in an obvious attempt to "exchange goodwill for goodwill," said Professor Lee Ming of the Department of Diplomacy at National Chengchi University.

The area surrounding the Tiaoyutais is a traditional fishing area for Taiwanese fishermen, he said. However, Taiwanese fishing boats are often expelled by Japanese patrol vessels, he noted, adding that in recent years, Japan has even reinforced its hostile moves, regardless of the improved relations between the two countries.

Against this backdrop, while proposing the solution as an effort to peacefully settle territorial disputes over the Tiaoyutais, Ma has also reiterated the Republic of China's sovereignty, he said.

Being the smallest country among the claimants to the island group, Taiwan's defense and national security authorities must still prepare for any possible hostile movements in the region, even though those actions are unlikely to happen in the midst of calls for peace, he said.

Chien Hsi-chieh, chief executive of the Peacetime Foundation of Taiwan, urged the ruling Kuomintang and opposition Democratic Progressive Party to form a united front on the issue of the territorial dispute in the East China Sea so that the country can have a strong voice on the subject in the international community.

As a peace-advocating civic group, Chien said his foundation supports the idea of resolving the territorial disputes by means of resource-sharing and joint development, and he called on all the parties concerned to make the East China Sea case a model for efforts to resolve international conflicts.

In this way, Chien said, Taiwan will be given a chance to take the lead in efforts to promote peace, internationally and regionally.

(By Elizabeth Hsu)