Taipei, Tokyo, Manila Conflict Exposes US Political Opportunism
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 30, 2013
Summary: Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton practices "realpolitik" political opportunism. In this case, the realpolitik involves the East China Sea and South China Sea. The US has incited territorial sovereignty disputes between other nations and China, and is sitting on the sidelines hoping to reap the benefits. The United States' "return to Asia" aspires to contain Mainland China. But no amount of realpolitik gamesmanship is going to be successful. Macroeconomic factors militate against it. So does the Taiwan factor.
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Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton practices "realpolitik" political opportunism. In this case, the realpolitik involves the East China Sea and South China Sea. The US has incited territorial sovereignty disputes between other nations and China, and is sitting on the sidelines hoping to reap the benefits.
Ever since China's power declined in modern times, it has been unable to defend its territorial waters. After WWII, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait were divided. The Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea and the Nansha Islands in the South China Sea belong to the Taiwan Region of the Republic of China. The Republic of China was unable to reoccupy the Mainland Region. Needless to say it was incapable of defending its islands and reefs in the East China Sea and South China Sea. The Mainland Region of China was preoccupied with the Three Antis and Five Antis movements, the Cultural Revolution, and the "liberation of Taiwan." It too was unable to defend these islands and reefs. The Japanese illegally occupied the Diaoyutai Islands. One by one, China's long-held islands and reefs in the South China Sea were illegally occupied by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and other countries. The ROC government on Taiwan was only able to hold on to Taiping Island in the Nansha Archipelago.
Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam took advantage of the opportunities provided by Hillary Clinton's "realpolitik." Clinton hoped to incite territorial sovereignty disputes between other nations and China. Sure enough, with no cost to itself, the US played politics in the East and South China Seas with islands and reefs belonging to the Taiwan Region of the Republic of China. Foreign nations have invaded and occupied territory belonging to the Taiwan Region of the Republic of China. Can Republic of China President Ma Ying-jeou sit on the sidelines and turn a blind eye to what is going on?
The controversy over the alleged "nationalization" of the Diaoyutai Islands" has persisted for one year. Fishing season is approaching. Ma Ying-jeou refused to join forces with Beijing to defend the Diaoyutai Islands. He risked the condemnation of Chinese people the world over. But Taiwanese fishermen poured into traditional fishing grounds in Diaoyutai Island waters. They were not expelled or arrested. If Japan does nothing, have they given up their claims to sovereignty? Mainland Chinese ocean surveillance ships have acted as escorts. Can Taiwanese fishermen refuse their assistance? Can Japan open fire on Mainland China's ocean surveillance ships? Ma Ying-jeou has allowed Taiwan fishermen to accept protection provided by Mainland China's ocean surveillance ships. Is Ma Ying-jeou still president? Or should he resign? Ma must patrol the ocean and provide protection for ROC fishing vessels. Will the Japanese open fire on ROC Coast Guard ships?
Taiwan was a central link in the United States Cold War era Western Pacific island chain. If the two sides of the Taiwan Strait join hands to defend the Diaoyutai Islands, the U.S. island chain will be missing a link. Therefore, under pressure from Washington, Tokyo hurriedly signed a fisheries agreement with Taipei, just before fishing season.
Henceforth Taiwanese fishermen fishing in their traditional Diaoyutai Island waters, apart from not being permitted to not land on the island, will no longer be subject to expulsion. Japan no longer expels Taiwanese fishing boats in order to "defend" the sovereignty of the Diaoyutai Islands. Taiwanese fishermen need no longer clash with Japan. Nor do they anyone's protection, Still less do they need joint, cross-Strait protection. Unless Japan opens fire, it cannot expel Mainland Chinese ocean surveillance ships that regularly patrol China's territorial waters. Nor can they expel Taiwanese fishermen as a show of "defending sovereignty." Over time, Taipei and Tokyo will go without conflicts over the Diaoyutai Islands. Beijing and Tokyo will not open fire on each other over the Diaoyutai Islands. The dispute over the Diaoyutai Islands has returned to where it began. At least for the near term, there will be peace. There will be no conflict between Taipei and Tokyo. Nor will the islands remain a flashpoint for Sino-Japanese conflict.
Hillary Clinton's realpolitik uses the Diaoyutai Islands as bait, to provoke Sino-Japanese conflict. Ma Ying-jeou declared that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait would not join hands with Beijing to defend the Diaoyutai Islands. But Ma's insistence on providing protection for fishing vessels fishing in the Diaoyutai Islands exposed his declaration for what it was.
The Philippines and Mainland China clashed near Huangyan Island, for over a month. On May 9, the Philippines machine-gunned a Taiwanese fishing vessel, the Kuang Ta Hsing, Taiwanese fisherman Hong Shi-cheng was shot and killed. News sources intially reported that an "unknown" Philippines' vessel opened fire on one of our fishing vessels. Following consultation with Chiang Yi-hua, Ma Ying-jeou instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to issue a declaration of solemn concern. He demanded that the Philippines side immediately investigate the case, and bring the perpetrators to justice. Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also issued rare statements condemning the shooting, demanding the truth and punishment for the murderer.
In the Taipei vs. Manila conflict, Washington stood by Manila. But it could not allow the Taipei vs. Manila conflict to bring the two sides of the Taiwan Strait closer together. In fact, Washington's position in this conflict, is consistent with Washington's position in the conflict between Taipei and Tokyo.
Washington knows that the Nansha Islands and Diaoyutai Islands both belong to the Taiwan Region of the Republic of China. Washington is inciting other nations to violate China's sovereignty in the Nansha Islands. It knows that the Taiwan Region of the Republic of China will bear the brunt of the aggression. Taiwan has not aggressed against America's allies. Rather America's allies have aggressed against Taiwan. Since the US is not treating Taiwan as an ally, Taiwan has no need to treat the US as an ally. Is this a greater threat to Taipei or to Washington?
Will the Taipei vs. Manila conflict be resolved the same way as the Diaoyutai Islands conflict? Will it lead to Taipei-Manila fisheries negotiations? We do not know. If the conflict cannot be resolved and escalates, Washington will have to choose sides between Manila and Taipei. This will be a real headache for the United States. The U.S.'s strategic target is the Mainland, not Taiwan. But it is being forced to move against Taiwan. Can the U.S. "return to Asia" reestablish containment against the Mainland?
Suppose Taipei and Manila finally reach a fisheries agreement? Manila will not experience territorial conflicts with the Taiwan Region of the Republic of China. It will not experience territorial conflicts with the Mainland Region of the Republic of China. The South China Sea will be "pacific," i.e., conflict free. What then will Washington use to incite conflict between Manila and Beijng?
The United States' "return to Asia" aspires to contain Mainland China. But no amount of realpolitik gamesmanship is going to be successful. Macroeconomic factors militate against it. So does the Taiwan factor.