Diaoyutai Island and South China Sea Fishing Rights Impact Cross-Strait Sovereignty
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 14, 2013
Summary: Taipei and Beijing may have disputes over sovereignty. But they do
not affect the two sides' joint assertions of sovereignty relative to
Tokyo and Manila. The two sides must attend to the people's concerns
about their livelihood. The issue of sovereignty between the two sides
is something that should be tackled in order, easy things first,
difficult things last. The Diaoyutai Island
and South China Sea sovereignty issues impact cross-Strait sovereignty.
All the more reason to use the Big Roof Concept of China to combine and
unify cross-Strait sovereignty.
Full Text below:
On May 10, every newspaper headline on Taiwan was about the Philippines ocean surveillance ship shooting and killing Taiwanese fishermen Hong Shi-cheng. But before the presses started rolling, over 50 Taiwanese fishing vessels were already waiting outside Diaoyutai Island waters. They were waiting for the stroke of midnight, when the "Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement" would go into effect for the very first time. They were anchored outside these fishing grounds, which the Japanese only recently termed off-limits.
It is currently the fishing season. Had the Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement not gone into effect, clashes around the island would be inevitable. Finally, a problem in the East China Sea has been resolved. Sadly, blood has simultaneously been shed in the South China Sea. Fishing rights disputes in the East China Sea and South China Sea are linked. Taipei and Beijing are also linked as a result of these disputes. For the two sides of the Strait, the South China Sea issue may develop along similar lines as the Diaoyutai Islands issue.
Consider the interests of the Japanese. Last summer Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara was the trouble-maker. He raised money to "purchase" the Diaoyutai Islands. He pressured the Yoshihiko Noda Cabinet to "nationalize" the Diaoyutai Islands. This resulted in Mainland Chinese aircraft and ships routinely cruising the territorial waters and airspace of the Diaoyutai Islands, and reaffirming that the islands belong to China. This shattered Japan's alleged "effective control." Therefore, the immediate perception in Japan, was that Tokyo must act decisively to allow Taiwanese fishing vessels to enter the so-called "exclusive economic zone." Otherwise, Mainland ships escorting Taiwanese fishing vessels would become the norm. The situation would then be even harder to deal with. As a result, Taipei seized the opportunity to sign the Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement.
The Philippines openly shot and killed someone. This brought the two sides together once more. In fact, the South China Sea conflict between Beijing and Manila, is a hundred times more serious than the fisheries dispute between Taipei and Manila. Aircraft and ships from the two sides have clashed repeatedly and exchanged fire. In 2003, during a "naval battle" of sorts, the Mainland side sank six Philippine ships, and the Philippines hit five Mainland ships. Beijing's official media outlet, the Global Times, interpreted the Philippine killings as "The Philippines taking out their anger on Taiwan." It wrote that the Philippines showed their will and determination by strafing the Taiwanese fishing vessel, in an effort to strengthen its bargaining position in talks with the Mainland." The newspaper suggested that Beijing should "act alone" to demonstrate solidarity with Taiwan.
In fact, Beijing's actions in response to the "Kuang Ta Hsing 28 Incident" were unavoidable. Given Mainland China's definition of sovereignty, Beijing must interpret the Philippines atrocites against Taiwanese fishing vessels as if they were directed at itself. One. Classifying the Taiwanese fishing vessel murder as an offense against itself provides Beijing with an extra bargaining chip with the Philippines in the South China Sea. Two. Showing solidarity with Taiwanese fishing vessels, increases goodwill from the people of Taiwan. Beijing's intervention and expression of solidarity inspires a sense of shared interests and destiny. Three. Widening the conflict between Beijing and Manila in the South China Sea forces Manila to deal with more variables.
The Philippines killed a man, drawing Beijing into the dispute. Is Washington willing to see Beijing and Taipei join forces against Manila in this dispute? If not, it should encourage Taipei and Manila to reach a fisheries agreement. The Taipei vs. Manila fisheries dispute could then be resolved according to the Diaoyutai Islands model. This could become a trend. Manila can reduce the number of variables if faces and narrow the scope of the conflict. It can prevent the two sides from joining hands. It can reach a special fisheries agreement with Taipei.
Some people say that by signing the Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement, Taiwan undermined its sovereignty over the islands and shattered the implicit cross-Strait defense of sovereignty. Some on Taiwan are excoriating the Ma administration. Mainland netizens are claling Ma Ying-jeou a "traitor." But this is clearly not Beijing's view. When the Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement was signed, the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office said, "Both sides share responsibility for maintaining the fishing rights and interests of fishermen regarding traditional fishing grounds."
What is "sovereignty?" Japan claims it has "nationalized" the Diaoyutai Islands. But it does not dare station government officials on the island. Beijing regularly patrols Diaoyutai Islands with ships and aircraft. But it has yet to occupy it. Taipei claims that the Diaoyutai Islands are its "long established territory." But it watches meekly from the sidelines as ships dispatched by Beijing and Tokyo venture into its "territorial waters." Must Taiwan fishermen wait until Taipei, Beijing, or Tokyo actually seize the Diaoyutai Islands before asserting their fishing rights? Isn't that an outrageous argument? The outcome of the tripartite sovereignty dispute is uncertain. But the two sides can jointly safeguard the interests of fishermen. The two sides can make a meaningful humanitarian and economic contribution. The government of the Republic of China must uphold its sovereignty claims without losing its sense of proportion.
Beijing's Global Times editorials are worthy of attention. The newspaper repeatedly said that "The Mainland need not rush to pursue cross-strait cooperation over the issue of sovereignty, as doing so could backfire." Taipei and Beijing may have disputes over sovereignty. But they do not affect the two sides' joint assertions of sovereignty relative to Tokyo and Manila. The two sides must attend to the people's concerns about their livelihood. The issue of sovereignty between the two sides is something that should be tackled in order, easy things first, difficult things last.
In short, the Diaoyutai Island and South China Sea sovereignty issues impact cross-Strait sovereignty. All the more reason to use the Big Roof Concept of China to combine and unify cross-Strait sovereignty.
2013.05.14 02:16 am