Diaoyutai: Taipei Must Choose Sides
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
November 29, 2013
Summary: The "East China Sea Peace Initiative" is currently Taipei's best option. But it is not its only option. The purpose of the East China Sea Peace Initiative was to address the Diaoyutai Islands sovereignty dispute. It does not address the complex East China Sea dispute. The East China Sea Peace Initiative names three parties, Beijing, Tokyo, and Taipei. It does not include Seoul. It does not include Taipei-Washington relations or cross-Strait relations. Today, changing circumstances necessitate a change in Taipei's strategy.
Full text below:
Beijing's Ministry of Defense announced an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. The zone includes Diaoyutai Island waters claimed by Tokyo, Beijing, and Taipei. It also includes islands claimed by both China and Korea, which China refers to as the Su Yan Islets. As expected, the announcement provoked strong protests from neighboring governments. Taipei now faces a more complex international situation.
Washington recently sent two unarmed B-52 bombers to overfly the Diaoyutai Islands. Korean P-3C anti-submarine aircraft also entered the airspace over outlying islands, without advanced notice. These were deliberate challenges to Beijing's declared Air Defense Identification Zone. Japan has announced that it will further expand the range of its Air Defense Identification Zone to the Xiao Li Yuan Archipelago in response. At the same time, Mainland China's aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, passed through the Taiwan Strait yesterday on its way to the South China Sea. These developments have expanded the East Asian crisis, from a territorial dispute between Taipei, Tokyo, and Beijing over the Diaoyutai Islands, to a four way dispute between Tokyo, Washington, Seoul, and Beijing.
Each of the parties wants to declare sovereignty. Xi Jinping also wants to consolidate his power and proclaim the "Renaissance of a Great Nation." The United States wants to promote its "Asian Rebalancing" strategy. Changes in these two situations have affected the direction of three policies. They will profoundly affect the future of cross-Strait relations, as well as the direction of Washington-Taipei relations and Taipei-Tokyo relations.
Consider the changing situation. First of all, the Diaoyutai Islands sovereignty dispute has expanded. It has become an East China Sea regional security issue. From Washington's perspective, the Diaoyutai Islands sovereignty dispute is an issue between China and Japan, But East China Sea and South China Sea security issues involve Washington's core interests and its "Return to Asia" strategy. Beijing unilaterally announced its East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. It requires other countries' civil and military aircraft passing through the East China Sea to inform them. The Diaoyutai Islands sovereignty dispute has escalated. It is now an East China Sea sovereignty dispute. The Sino-Japanese conflict has raised tensions between neighboring countries in the East China Sea. This provides Washington with a perfect excuse to intervene.
Secondly, the Sino-Japanese territorial dispute has intensified Sino-US regional confrontation. Last April the Diaoyutai Islands territorial dispute erupted. Washington was merely a spectator. Its position was that Beijing and Tokyo should resolve their differences through political dialogue. But it also wanted a strong Japan to counter Mainland China's rise. The U.S. had no desire to shred the post-war Japanese "peace constitution." It had no desire to change the balance of power in East Asia. But after Beijing announced its Air Defense Identification Zone, Washington rushed to send two bombers into the area to test Beijing's resolve. Washington officially declared that it was no longer a "bystander," but a participant.
Consider the new policy direction. First, Mainland China's "peaceful rise" has taken a new turn. Since 2000, "peaceful rise" and "good-neighbor diplomacy" have been the two pillars of Beijing's foreign policy. The CCP Third Plenary Session consolidated Xi Jinping's power. Mainland China's Ministry of Defense announced its East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. This was a new twist in Mainland China's diplomacy. This was a new starting point for Xi Jinping's dream of becoming a great nation. Mainland China's foreign policy is increasingly assertive. It also include cross-Strait relations. This year Xi Jinping stressed that the cross-Strait issue "cannot be handed down from one generation to the next." As we can see, Taipei will face increasing pressure during political negotiations with Beijing.
Next, consider the direction the Washington-Tokyo axis is taking. Mainland China's Ministry of Defense announced its East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. It intends to turn the East China Sea into a "Chinese lake." It intends to breakthrough the Western Pacific first island chain. Washington is sure to increase military cooperation with its Asian allies. Together they hope to contain Mainland China's military power. Washington has officially intervened in the Diaoyutai Islands dispute. It is strengthening the Washington-Tokyo axis. This means the new Washington Beijing big power relationship has gradually been internalized and eroded. Taipei now faces increasing pressure to choose sides between Beijing and the Washington-Tokyo axis.
Finally, consider the change in Japan's defense policy. Beijing announced its East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone without advance notice. The Japanese government voiced strong objections. It ordered Japanese airlines not to submit flight plans to Beijing. The day before, Japan's parliament established a "National Security Council" and a "National Security Bureau." It will amend Japan's National Defense Program Outline by the end of this year. This will strengthen its military deployment in Yunaguo Island and Shitan Island waters. In the future, Its military activities in waters surrounding Taiwan will increase.
Events are swirling around Taiwan. Taipei cannot pretend everything is fine. In particular, the parties involved, Tokyo, Beijing, and Washington, have close ties to Taipei. A weaker Taipei finds itself caught between three stronger powers. It must be extraordinarily cautious. Taiwan must not do what DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang demanded. It must not join hands with Washington and Tokyo and demand that Beijing take back its Air Defense Identification Zone. But it must be prepared for different eventualities.
The "East China Sea Peace Initiative" is currently Taipei's best option. But it is not its only option. The purpose of the East China Sea Peace Initiative was to address the Diaoyutai Islands sovereignty dispute. It does not address the complex East China Sea dispute. The East China Sea Peace Initiative names three parties, Beijing, Tokyo, and Taipei. It does not include Seoul. It does not include Taipei-Washington relations or cross-Strait relations. Today, changing circumstances necessitate a change in Taipei's strategy.
2013.11.29 03:05 am