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Talk of the Day -- Taiwan needs new strategy as Asia-Pacific simmers

2012/04/26 22:16:21

The Asia-Pacific region seems to be growing less peaceful these days. Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara openly talked of his plan during a recent U.S. trip of having the Tokyo metropolitan government buy the disputed Senkaku Islands, which is known as Tiaoyutai Islands in Taiwan and as Diaoyuatais in China.

The uninhabited island group in the East China Sea is claimed by Taiwan, China and Japan.

Since April 10, armed vessels from the Philippines and China have been facing off at the horseshoe-shaped Scarborough Shoal, known as Huangyen Island in Mandarin Chinese, in the South China Sea over competing territorial claims.

At almost the same time, the United States launched military exercises with the Philippines and Vietnam, respectively, while China and Russia also began joint naval exercises April 22 in the Yellow Sea.

Similar scenarios could become a norm in the region because the prevailing power structure in the Asia-Pacific has had irrevocable changes along with the rise of China as a new powerhouse, local political analysts said.

In the South China Sea territorial dispute, Taiwan controls the Taiping Island, the largest of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Armed Vietnamese patrol vessels twice sailed close to the Taiping Island and even opened fire late last month, according to local media reports. Taiwan's coastguard officers stationed on the island also fired warning shots.

All these developments point to the need for Taiwan to chalk out well-devised strategy to defend its territorial claims in those disputed islands and surrounding waters and better protect national interests, political pundits said.

Six countries -- Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei claim all or part of the South China Sea.

The following are excerpts from local media coverage of recent Asia-Pacific security situations:

Liberty Times:

Japan's Kyodo news agency reported recently that the Philippines is planning to set up an elementary school on the Thitu Island, known as Chungyeh Island in Mandarin Chinese, in the South China Sea in June.

If the plan materializes, it will mark the first time that the Philippines has opened a school on a disputed island, which is also claimed by Taiwan, China and Vietnam.

The Chungyeh Island was named after one of the Republic of China warships which took over control of various South China Sea islands in 1946 after World War II.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong-based Ming Pao Daily said the United States intends to lease two military bases -- one for naval training and the other for air force training -- from the Philippines.

According to Japanese media reports, Tokyo will cover construction costs of U.S. military facilities outside Japan if Japanese Self-Defense Forces can use them, and will provide weapons to neighboring countries under an official development assistance framework.

Against this backdrop, political analysts said Japanese Self-Defense Forces may receive training together with U.S. soldiers at bases leased from the Philippines in the future.

Such a development may draw protests from China which has become increasingly assertive on its South China Sea territorial claims, according to the analysts. (April 26, 2012).

China Times:

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping said during a meeting with a visiting Japanese trade delegation earlier this week that the two countries should exercise prudence and restraint in handling rivaling territorial claims, referring to the Tokyo governor's controversial remarks over the Tiaoyutai Islands.

Taiwan asserts its sovereignty over the Tiaoyutais, which are located some 175 kilometers northeast of Taiwan and some 400 km southwest of Japan's Okinawa prefecture. (April 26, 2012).

(By Sofia Wu)