Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda recently unveiled his government's plan to buy the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea from the landowner, drawing fresh protests from Taipei and Beijing, both of which claim sovereignty over the territory.
Known as the Tiaoyutais in Taiwan and Diaoyutais in China, the disputed island group has long been a symbolic issue in the domestic politics of the claimant nations. How to uphold Taiwan's sovereignty without turning the islands into a stage for political grandstanding is a matter requiring political wisdom.
In fact, the latest move by Japan involves a game of one-upmanship between Noda and Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, who first proposed to buy the islands in April.
Ishihara, from the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party, is trying to use the issue to highlight the cowardice of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan toward China, thus mobilizing right-wing support to pave the way for his bid to become prime minister.
Noda, on the other hand, needs to rescue the plummeting popularity of his Cabinet and prevent the Tiaoyutai issue from becoming a liability in the next Lower House election.
A fierce political battle is clearly being fought in Japan, and the Tiaoyutais are merely one of the weapons being used.
In international politics, governments have often used foreign affairs to divert public attention from domestic problems. In 1982, for example, Argentina provoked a war with the United Kingdom over the Falkland Islands.
In dealing with the Tiaoyutai dispute and relations with Japan, Taiwan needs to weigh its options carefully and do what is in the best interest of the country. (Editorial abstract -- July 11, 2012)
(By Y.F. Low)