Defense of Islands Sovereignty Awaits Ruling and Opposition Party Cooperation
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 6, 2012
Summary: DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang should not mock President Ma's Daioyutai Islands Defense Movement stance. Does Chairman Su consider landing on the Pengjia Islet irrelevant to the defense of the Diaoyutai Islands? Does he consider it mere evidence of an "Ah Q" mentality? Then perhaps Chairman Su would be willing to make a more explicit declaration on the sovereignty of the Diaoyutai Islands? Perhaps as a member of the DPP Central Standing Committee, he would be willing to declare his support for Ilan County Chief Lin Tsong-hsian, who landed on the island and proclaimed sovereignty?
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APEC member states gathered on a large Russian island south of Haishengwei ("Vladivostok"). They discussed the establishment of closer economic cooperation between Asian-Pacific nations. The disputes between East Asian countries over the sovereignty of several islands continue to rage. The toxic atmosphere between Japan and South Korea even cast a shadow over this year's APEC summit.
Summit host Russia is attempting to become an integral part of the Asian-Pacific region and to create a "New Asia." But international attention focused on Japan, which is attempting to assert leadership over East Asia. International attention focused on Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his interaction with Mainland Chinese and South Korean leaders. These will indicate whether relations between Beijing, Tokyo, and Seoul are running hot or cold. They will also indicate whether the disputes over islands in the East China Sea can be resolved peacefully.
Following the war, Japan periodically clashed with its neighbors. In the past, the main factor affecting Japan's relations with its neighbors was Japan's interpretation of history. But in recent years, sovereignty over numerous islands has replaced Japan's interpretation of history as the raw nerve undermining international relations in Northeast Asia. Issues of territorial sovereignty affect these nations' substantive interests. Disputes over maritime rights and geopolitical security have become the most significant variables affecting relations between Bejing, Tokyo, and Seoul.
In fact, during the Koizumi cabinet, Sino-Japanese relations were at their lowest ebb since diplomatic relations were normalized in 1972. Official visits to the Yasukuni Shrine were not really the issue. As President Bush noted, Sino-Japanese relations are much more complex than the Yasukuni Shrine issue. American Japanologist Michael Green spoke bluntly. He said that even if the prime minister did not visit the Yasukuni Shrine, it would make no difference. The United States knows that disputes over maritime interests stand in the way of trust and communication between Beijing and Tokyo. .
But the disputes over East Asian islands are not limited to Beijing and Tokyo. Tokyo is an ally of Washington. But so are Taipei, Seoul, and Manila. Even Hanoi has attempted to improve relations with Washington. The disputes over the sovereignty of these islands are complex. To Washington's embarrassment, its "return to Asia" has precipitated these problems. The US wants to ensure unity among the first Pacific island chain that is "containing" Mainland China. Instead it finds itself robbing Peter to pay Paul. All it can do is offer platitudes. All it can do is call on the parties to sit down and talk, and to resolve disputes through dialogue. Beijing appears to be playing a waiting game. It appears to be waiting for someone else to make a mistake. It calmly sits on the sidelines, watching Washington play Big Brother in East Asia. It uses the opportunity to appeal to Taipei. It hopes cross-Strait cooperation over the Nansha Islands ("Spratly Islands") and Diaoyutai Islands sovereignty conflicts.
Once President Ma came to office, ECFA gradually normalized cross-Strait economic exchanges. But this normalization has not extended to the political realm. It has not reduced the historical grievances between the KMT and CCP. In the international arena, Beijing has not changed its "One China=PRC" attitude. It continues to restrict Taipei's diplomatic space. This makes cross-Strait cooperation on sovereignty impossible. This makes it impossible for Taipei to shed its Cold War mentality vis a vis national security. Beijing wants to Taipei to rally to the larger issue of national sovereignty in the islands disputes. It wants the two sides to join in the defense of Chinese territory. But if the illusion of cross-Strait cooperation in the South China Sea and East China Sea cannot be maintained, such efforts will be futile.
Taipei still views itself as the defender of "one China," as per the Republic of China Constitution. The Nansha Islands and Diaoyutai Islands disputes have left it trapped between international diplomacy and cross-Strait relations. It finds itself fighting a thankless battle on both fronts, Recently Taipei began live-fire exercises on Taiping Island. President Ma visited Pengjia Islet overlooking the Diaoyutai Islands. Diplomatically Taipei finds itself in a tight spot. It is attempting to practice "balanced diplomacy." It seeks to avoid undermining security relations with Washington. It is implicitly asserting the sovereignty of the Republic of China through international diplomatic initiatives. Needless to say this attracted far less attention than South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's impassioned landing on Dokdo.
On Taiwan the Blue and Green camps hold conflicting ideological views regarding Japan. These are clearly reflected in the ruling and opposition parties' positions on the Diaoyutai Islands. There should be unity on Taiwan regarding the Diaoyutai Islands Defense Movement. Instead the Diaoyutai Islands conflict has become part of the ongoing internecine Blue vs. Green conflict. This has encouraged the Japanese government to cast covetous eyes on the Diaoyutai Islands.
DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang should not mock President Ma's Daioyutai Islands Defense Movement stance. Does Chairman Su consider landing on the Pengjia Islet irrelevant to the defense of the Diaoyutai Islands? Does he consider it mere evidence of an "Ah Q" mentality? Then perhaps Chairman Su would be willing to make a more explicit declaration on the sovereignty of the Diaoyutai Islands? Perhaps as a member of the DPP Central Standing Committee, he would be willing to declare his support for Ilan County Chief Lin Tsong-hsian, who landed on the island and proclaimed sovereignty? DPP officials have equated the Diaoyutai Islands Defense Movement with Chinese reunification and Taiwan independence, and with "cozying up to [Mainland] China." Perhaps Chairman Su will cease abetting their disinformation activities? Perhaps he will cease his attempts to confuse the public and shake their confidence in ROC sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands?
It is not easy for Taipei to cooperate with Beijing over the Diaoyutai Islands and South China Sea islands conflicts. But the ruling and opposition parties on Taiwan should be able to launch a coordinated attack regarding the Diaoyutai Islands. They should be able to join hands to defend our territorial sovereignty. The ruling and opposition parties must form a united front. Only then can they make their position on the East China Sea clearly heard within the international community. Amidst the dispute over the sovereignty of islands in the East China Sea and South China Sea, they must reunify the Republic of China. Only then can they win the respect of the international community.