Koh Se-kai's Desertion Under Fire
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 18, 2008
After days of protests and denials, the Japanese government has finally expressed a willingness to pay compensation and to apologize for ramming and sinking an ROC fishing boat. ROC legislators have canceled their reconnaissance mission to Diaoyutai. The storm has temporarily died down. The most regrettable aspect of this major diplomatic incident, is continued partisan infighting on Taiwan, and the inability of the opposing parties to unite to defend the ROC's national interests.
Representative to Japan Koh Se-kai refused to report to the Legislative Yuan. Instead, along with another legislator, he held a press conference, condemning the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and demanding that it immediately approve his resignation. Koh Se-kai's gesture not only violated the civil service code of ethics, it was a serious dereliction of a diplomatic envoy's sworn duty. The two nations are mired in a controversy. When the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recalled ROC Representative to Japan Koh Se-kai, it was one way for the ROC to bargain with Japan. Yet Koh chose this moment to loudly announce his resignation. He not only deserted his post in the heat of battle, he publicly embarrassed his own government. No competent diplomat would ever betray his own country in such an underhanded manner.
Several Blue Camp legislators denounced Koh Se-kai as a "traitor to Taiwan." Their charges were inappropriate. But as the ROC's diplomatic envoy to Japan, Koh Se-kai is duty-bound to report to the legislature as a whole, not just a few impolite Blue Camp legislators. Yet he used this as an excuse to refuse to report to the Legislative Yuan. This was not merely an act of contempt for the legislature, it was also a dereliction of his solemn duties as a public servant. Therefore no matter how well Koh Se-kai might have performed during his term of office, at the crucial moment he let his country down. He came up short. He neglected his duties. He failed to speak on behalf of his country.
Koh Se-kai's dereliction of duty was rooted not merely in his possession of a "Sakura Card," i.e., Permanent Resident status in Japan, but in his Taiwan independence and Japanophilic orientation. Blue vs. Green animosity, aggravated by the recent change in ruling parties, with encouragement from Green Camp legislators, motivated Koh Se-kai's rash behavior. From Koh Se-kai's "sounding of retreat" we can see that diplomatic envoys are not the only ones afflicted with cognitive disorders. Partisan politics on Taiwan is rife with such befuddlement. Otherwise
how could the ruling and opposition parties indulge in partisan bickering when the nation is confronted by an external threat?
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs' recall of Koh Se-kai during the confrontation is a commonplace means of diplomatic protest. It was directed at Japan. Who knew Koh Se-kai would conclude it was directed at him? Who knew he would interpret it as an expression of new administration dissatisfaction with his performance, and as an attempt to humiliate him? Given his failure to distinguish between public and private issues, it is little wonder he failed to understand his solemn duty. As his country's Representative to Japan, Koh Se-kai should have been loyal to his nation and his government. Instead he was loyal only to the DPP. He defied the new administration's directives. Some people said his most significant achievement while in office was to successfully cast Ma Ying-jeou as an "anti-Japanese element." With diplomats such as this stationed in foreign countries, how can we possibly uphold our nation's larger interests?
The Chen Shui-bian regime has ripped apart society with eight years of Blue vs. Green demagoguery. What's worse, it has led the nation on a Quixotic political quest, for an unattainable goal. For eight years the DPP has been shouting "We love Taiwan." In fact, their shrill declarations of love for Taiwan have merely enabled them to question the loyalty of anyone "not one of us." They trumpeted their "bull in a china shop" diplomacy and their "scorched earth" diplomacy, but turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to challenges to ROC sovereignty, fishing rights and human rights. Koh Se-kai's desertion under fire is hardly an isolated case. It represents the DPP's befuddlement regarding national identity. They dare not proclaim sovereignty over Diaoyutai. They dare not argue on behalf of Taiwanese fishermen when their rights and interests are violated. When diplomats stationed in foreign countries are recalled to testify before the legislature, they play the partisan card. So the question is: How exactly does the DPP love Taiwan?
The Diaoyutai incident has triggered an island wide political storm. It has highlighted the island's identity crisis. If the nation is unable to unite in the face of threats to its sovereignty, how will it cope when confronted by more severe tests? The opposition party is hardly the sole culprit. Ruling party legislators have also stirred up trouble, clamoring for war and demanding the dispatch of troops. They have increased the executive branch's already heavy burden. This is hardly the way a ruling party should behave.
The current storm had a favorable outcome, primarily because incontrovertible evidence showed that a Japanese warship rammed and sank an ROC fishing boat. The new administration was therefore able to use public anger to demand justice. The rights and interests of the fishing boat owner will probably be protected, but the underlying problem remains unsolved. It is said that diplomacy is an extension of domestic politics. The soft power wielded by our civil society and our economic system can help increase the ROC's inadequate diplomatic breathing space. But irrational partisan bickering could become a burden for foreign policy. The Koh Se-kai incident has added a new wrinkle to the Diaoyutai incident, and is something the ruling and opposition parties must consider as part of the larger picture.
2008.06.18 03:08 am