East China Sea Situation: Taipei's Role is to Make Peace
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
December 3, 2013
Summary: In the East China Sea, a weaker power caught between two strong powers
can do little. The Ma Ying-jeou government is relatively neutral. Its
behavior and speech are rational. It has indicated that the issue of
sovereignty is not involved. That was left to the discretion of the
relevant ministries. They would ensure goodwill and the larger interests
of the nation. Yet the DPP and Pan Green media blasted him. They
accused him of "pandering to [Mainland] China" and "selling out Taiwan."
They accused him of self-abasement. Such accusations are unreasonable.
The media should not add fuel to the fire.
Full text below:
On November 23, Beijing's Ministry of Defense announced its "Scope of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone." It included the Diaoyutai Islands. Beijing declared that in the future, all aircraft flying within the zone would be required to provide identification. Otherwise, the Mainland's armed forces could take "emergency defensive measures." The announcement touched raw nerves in Washington, Beijing, Tokyo, and Taipei. East China Sea tensions escalated. Even neighboring countries such as South Korea and Australia expressed concern. The Republic of China government is among the parties involved. Therefore it has a right to speak on the matter. It must adopt a firm stance on the matter.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, "We absolutely do not accept (Chinese) attempts to change the status quo by force." He ordered Japan's airlines not to cooperate. The U.S. State Department also issued a statement. It said "This unilateral action constitutes an attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea. Escalatory action will only increase tensions in the region and create risks of an incident." It reiterated the U.S. commitment to allies and partners, saying that Article 5 of the US-Japan Security Treaty applies to the Diaoyutai Islands. Japan refers to the islands as "Senkaku." American B-52 bombers overflew over the Diaoyutai Islands. The Mainland's first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, held exercises in the waters of the South China Sea. The situation will apparently get worse before it gets better.
View the matter objectively. Tensions in the region are increasing. Witihout advance warning, Beijing suddenly announced an air defense identification zone. The timing and manner were not conducive to regional stability. Whether the situation will worsen in the future is debatable. Will Beijing go further and designate air defense identification zones in the Yellow Sea and South China Seas? That remains to be seen. Beijing's move was aimed mainly at Japan. This is indisputable. Beijing probably expected the reaction from the Washington. But other countries have reacted swiftly. Opposition has been widespread. Tensions with many neighbors have increased. This is not in Beijing's best interests.
The concerned parties have alll put on shows. They have all spoken their peace. We believe conflict can be avoided. We do not believe war is imminent. The parties are merely testing each other's bottom lines. For the moment, they are merely exchanging insults and putting on a show, attempting to counter each others' arrogance. This is the time to prevent tensions from esclating. If something truly unexpected were to happen, even a small-scale accident, someone might attempt to gain an advantage. Even unexpected conflicts must be avoided. The parties can adhere to their positions. They can defend their dignity. They can demand that their interests be protected. But if a shooting war erupts, all parties will be losers.
Beijing, Washington, and Tokyo need not go to war over this tiny island. For Beijing, keeping a low profile while taking care of business is still its best foreign policy option. It needs a stable international and domestic environment to pursue economic growth and address its domestic problems. Even a tiny leak can sink a great ship. Therefore, Beijing need not provoke trouble, and destroy a rare opportunity for strategic development. Beijing's move was not necessarily an attempt to change the status quo. Many actions Washington and Tokyo took were indeed provocative. But Beijing must realize that if China and Japan clash, no matter how small or large the conflict, the biggest winner will be the US. A wise man will not be taken in.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will visit China, Japan, and South Korea this week. He says this is to enhance communication. He says he wants to understand Beijing's strategic intentions. In fact the problem has nothing to do with a lack of communications or lack of knowledge. The problem is that everyone has his own position. Everyone has internal pressures and cannot compromise. Take Taipei's perspective. The Japanese government nationalized the Diaoyutai Islands. It made the first move. It upset the status quo. It must be severely condemned. Washington's flagrantly biased pro-Japanese stance must also be condemned as unacceptable. Beijing included the Diaoyutai Islands in its territorial sea baselines. It included them its air defense identification zone. It included them because it was compelled to do so. This is why we are willing to withhold judgment.
Lastly, the ROC Legislature passed a resolution yesterday, requiring the government to issue a strong statement. This is political grandstanding. Legislators from any nations are inclined to make unrealistic boasts. They cannot be taken seriously. President Ma Ying-jeou has repeatedly set forth his East China Sea Peace Initiative. He advocates shelving disputes. He hopes that peaceful dialogue will resolve problems through negotiations. He advocates joint development of resources. This is actually a reasonable proposition, in line with the best interests of all parties. Unfortunately Taipei is often ignored. Nobody pays any attention. In the East China Sea, a weaker power caught between two strong powers can do little. The Ma Ying-jeou government is relatively neutral. Its behavior and speech are rational. It has indicated that the issue of sovereignty is not involved. That was left to the discretion of the relevant ministries. They would ensure goodwill and the larger interests of the nation. Yet the DPP and Pan Green media blasted him. They accused him of "pandering to [Mainland] China" and "selling out Taiwan." They accused him of self-abasement. Such accusations are unreasonable. The media should not add fuel to the fire.
中國時報 本報訊 2013年12月03日 04:10