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Talk of the Day -- Trilateral talks test cross-strait trust

2012/09/07 22:29:45

President Ma Ying-jeou has broached a two-stage approach to tackle a longstanding sovereignty dispute over the Tiaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea, saying negotiations among the three claimants to the Tiaoyutais -- Taiwan, Japan and China -- can begin along three parallel tracks.

Those discussions would then converge into single track trilateral negotiations over their conflicting claims to the uninhabited island chain, which lies closer to Taiwan than to either China or Japan.

Ma outlined his two-stage approach during a visit Friday to Pengjia Islet, the part of Taiwan closest to the Tiaoyutais, to reassert Taiwan's sovereignty over the island cluster.

It marked the first time that Ma has proposed the triangualar dialogue format to tackle the Tiaoyutai issue. Some political analysts said the proposal could test political trust between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and might even pry open a new political frontier for Taiwan.

The following are excerpts from local media coverage of Ma's East China Sea Peace Initiative action guidelines:

United Evening News:

Political analysts said sovereignty disputes are usually hard to settle without strong force. The East China Sea Peace Initiative put forward by Ma Aug. 5 is therefore not expected to bring about concrete results, they said.

While that may be the case, some analysts said it could pry open room for cross-strait political dialogue and may even allow both sides of the Taiwan Strait to engage in international dialogue.

According to them, Ma's proposal of "three parallel tracks of bilateral dialogue converging into a single track of trilateral negotiations" is bold and innovative.

The Tiaoyutais have been under Japanese control since 1972, even though they used to be Taiwan's traditional fishing ground and were geographically, geologically, historically associated with Taiwan.

Both Taiwan and China claim sovereignty to the uninhabited island chain.

With cross-strait relations improving in recent years, local scholars said, Japan has become more wary of squabbling with Taiwan over the Tiaoyutais.

But it remains unclear how China will react to the "two-stage" approach.

Political analysts said President Ma's commitment to the "1992 Consensus" and the "one China, separate interpretations" principle should prevent Beijing from rejecting Ma's new approach for the Tiaoyutais.

Therefore, they said, Ma's new initiative could serve as a litimus test for cross-strait political trust. (Sept. 7, 2012).

China Times:

An article in the latest issue of the Hong Kong-based weekly Yazhou Zhoukan said the Japanese government wants to nationalize the Tiaoyutai Islands, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, before the end of September, because it believes China is less likely to take strong action ahead of the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

China's ruling party is scheduled to hold the congress in October, during which it will undergo a sweeping leadership transition.

Japanese officials believe that if they were to nationalize the disputed island chain after the party congress, China's new leader Xi Jinping could be forced to take concrete action against Japan's unilateral nationalization move, which could strain Tokyo-Beijing ties for a long time, the article said. (Sept. 7, 2012).

(By Sofia Wu)