United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 12, 2015
Executive Summary: Tsai Ing-wen has concluded her visit to Washington. Her deliberately equivocal pledges to "maintain the status quo" in cross-Strait relations, along with her pro forma lip service to "affirm the Republic of China's constitutional framework" have enabled her to squeak by. But her act passed muster not because Tsai Ing-wen is such a wonderful showman. It passed muster because Sino-US relations are strained by tensions in the South China Sea. Tsai Ing-wen's anti-Mainland stance yielded short term rewards. But her stance on the South China Sea could endanger the Republic of China.
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Tsai Ing-wen has concluded her visit to Washington. Her deliberately equivocal pledges to "maintain the status quo" in cross-Strait relations, along with her pro forma lip service to "affirm the Republic of China's constitutional framework" have enabled her to squeak by. But her act passed muster not because Tsai Ing-wen is such a wonderful showman. It passed muster because Sino-US relations are strained by tensions in the South China Sea. Tsai Ing-wen's anti-Mainland stance yielded short term rewards. But her stance on the South China Sea could endanger the Republic of China.
For years now, the United States, the Chinese mainland, and six ASEAN countries, have been engaged in a military buildup in the South China Sea. Before the Guang Da Xin incident, the Mainland and the Philippines clashed over the Nansha Islands. The Philippines even demanded arbitration by the International Arbitration Tribunal. In the wake of US military intervention, the Mainland accelerated local construction. It said the dispute involved territorial matters, therefore it would not accept arbitration. It rejected the Philippines' attempt to internationalize the South China Sea dispute.
The Mainland rejected the US government's legal pretext for intervention. It cited in evidence the Republic of China government's 1947 "11 Dotted Line". This U-shaped national boundary in South China Sea waters clearly delineates China's jurisdiction and sovereignty over the islands. In recent years, the United States has hoped the KMT government would renounce the 11 Dotted Line, forsake its sovereignty, or even abandon these islands. This would enable the US to pressure Mainland China into accepting dispute settlement in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The US has recently dealt with the South China Sea issue in a high-handed manner. This is no accident. It is the inevitable result of the United States' determination to maintain US hegemony over Asia. Mainland China's economic strength poses the greatest threat to American domination over Asia. Washington's Asian rebalancing policy emphasizes military and regional security. It attempts to contain the Mainland's One Belt, One Road, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and other economic alliance strategies. The Mainland and the US have clashed repeatedly. One. Early this year, Washington and Tokyo revised the US-Japan Defense Cooperation Guidelines. They globalized the guidelines. They included the Diaoyutai Islands. Two. Xi Jinping visited Russia. Together with Putin, they reviewed the largest military parade in modern history. Mainland China has allied itself with Russia against the US and Japan. In August of this year the two countries will hold more joint military exercises in the Sea of Japan.
The US has responded to Mainland China's expanded naval power. The US still adheres to its Cold War era "first island chain" strategy. The United States and Japan are confronting Mainland China and Russia in Northeast Asia. In Southeast Asia, the US is using Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam and other countries as pawns, as pretexts to inject itself into the South China Seas conflict. Earlier this year, the United States twice asked senior officials of the ROC security directorate to visit the United States to discuss the 11 Dotted Line. Washington later revealed its position through think tanks. It urging the ROC to renounce the 11 Dotted Line and engage in dialogue with other claimants. The proposals were attempts to use Taiwan to extert pressure on the Mainland.
President Ma eventually responded with his "South China Sea Peace Initiative". In a compromise between the Mainland and the US, he stressed shelving the sovereignty dispute while respecting the spirit of international law, maintaining freedom of navigation in the region, and ensuring sea and air safety. This declaration coincided with US reconnaissance aircraft overflying artificial reefs constructed by the Mainland. This US "Shangri-La Dialogue" in late May was pre-arranged. The timing of Tsai Ing-wen's visit to the United States was no coincidence. Mainland China and the US have repeatedly clashed, from the East China Sea to the South China Sea. This saber rattling is motivated by the desire to empower oneself and disempower the other. It remains in a preliminary stage. During the Sino-US summit in September Xi Jinping and Barack Obama will play a game on this chessboard.
The South China Sea dispute has once again highlighted Taiwan's strategic status. Diaoyutai is different. Taiping Island is currently under our direct jurisdiction. Responsibility has been transferred to the Coast Guard. This has reduced any military connotations or exhorbitant expenditures. The discovery of natural gas has renewed government interest, and has led to the resumption of military deployments. Ma government moves in the South China Sea have been suppressed by the US. The most recent affirmation of sovereignty was in 2009. Intense confrontations have taken place among various countries over the past two years. The ROC government, paradoxically, has remained silent and kept a low profile. The Mainland knows the US hopes to undermine Mainland sovereignty in the South China Sea by turning the screws on Taiwan. It has decided therefore to take matters into its own hands. The United States could not persuade Ma to play along. Therefore it decided to work on the DPP instead. The South China Sea dispute has provided Tsai Ing-wen an opportunity to reverse her fortunes. It has enhanced the strategic status of Taiwan. But what impact will it have on our national prosperity?
The DPP characterizes Ma Ying-jeou's South China Sea peace initiative as "singing the same tune as [Mainland] China". But what about the DPP's South China Sea policy? What is that exactly? The DPP refuses to say. Tsai Ing-wen held several closed door meetings with the US in Washington. Just exactly what position did she take on the South China Sea disputes? Did she make any secret commitments to the US in exchange for supporting her? The DPP has declared that it will not give up Taiping Island. But the Republic of China's sovereignty in the South China Sea is hardly limited to a single island. What position did Tsai Ing-wen take on the 11 Dotted Line? Did she promise to abandon the islands in accordance with United States wishes? Did she stand by our position of 1947? Before the election, she has been blurring her position in an effort to pander to all parties. But after the election, she will have to say what she really meant. Will a DPP government ally with the US to contain [Mainland] China? Or will it continue the Ma government's policy of maintaining an equidistant posture from the United States and Mainland China, and remain out of the dispute?
Sino-US rivalry is changing the status quo in Asia. The Japanese media described the confrontation between the US and Japan one one side, and Mainland China and Russia on the other, as the beginning of a New Cold War. Is that an exaggeration? Taiwan and the Mainland are already on the road to reconciliation. We must not turn back the clock. Politicians who aspire to greatness, blue or green, have a responsibility to explain clearly how they intend to deal with issues concerning our nation's sovereignty. They may not treat such matters as bargaining chips to advance their selfish political ambitions. Tsai Ing-wen's position on cross-Strait issues is already far too ambiguous. Her position on the South China Sea issue must be far more transparent, if she hopes to become president.
中華民國憲政體制」為掩護順利過關。此行之成功， 原因其實不在蔡英文的表現多麼傑出， 而在中美關係正因南海局勢緊張受到挑戰， 蔡英文的反中立場在此際撈到了一些便宜；但她對南海的立場， 對中華民國卻可能是風險。
中菲就為了南沙群島數個島礁的所有權發生衝突， 菲國甚至向國際海洋法庭提出南海爭端仲裁。美國軍事力量介入後， 大陸則加緊在當地建設，並強調事涉領土與權益問題，不接受仲裁， 抵制菲國將南海爭端國際化。
就是中華民國政府在一九四七年公布的「十一段線」， 這個Ｕ型的國界線明確主張我國在南海水域的管轄範圍及島嶼主權。 近年美國一直希望國民黨政府能捨棄十一段線， 縮小為主張實質管轄的太平島主權或者完全棄島， 以迫使大陸接受聯合國根據海洋法公約處理爭端。
這是美中在亞洲爭霸的必然發展。 中國經濟實力已威脅美國在亞洲的領導地位， 華府的亞洲再平衡政策決定強調軍事與區域安全， 以牽制中國一帶一路、亞投行等經濟同盟戰略。 幾件事可作為觀察美中交鋒指標： 一是今年初美日著手修正防衛合作指針，將安保合作推向全球， 包括敏感的釣魚台；二是習近平訪俄， 陪同普丁檢閱現代史上最大規模的閱兵，中國攏俄劍指美日， 今年八月兩國將在日本海再次舉行聯合軍演。
美國仍循著冷戰時的第一島鏈布局攻防， 東北亞形成美日對中俄的格局；在東南亞，美國則以台、菲、 越等國為棋子，切入南海問題。今年初， 美方兩度要求我國安高層首長赴美，討論南海十一段線處理， 華府態度後來透過智庫學者釋出， 從放棄主張到參與各聲索國的對話， 各種建議都企圖透過台灣對大陸發揮阻力。
強調擱置主權爭議， 但尊重國際法精神維護該區海空航行自由與安全。這番宣示， 和美國派出偵察機飛經大陸人造島礁上空一樣， 都是美方在五月底的「香格里拉對話」前的預先籌謀； 而安排此時讓蔡英文赴美訪問，自然不是巧合。 中美從東海到南海連番叫陣，鎮逼封斷只為擴己抑彼， 這都還是布局階段， 九月中美峰會習近平與歐巴馬才會在這棋枰上進一步緊氣征子。
太平島是我方實質管轄，移交海巡署接管後，軍事色彩降低， 發展也受到預算限制。直至附近探勘到天然油氣， 政府才再度重視此地，恢復軍事部署。 馬政府的南海行動受到美方相當壓制，最近一次重申主權是在二○○ 九年，面對這兩年各國激烈的對峙奪礁，我國反而噤聲低調。 大陸深知美方要從台灣下手削弱中國在南海的主權聲張根據， 乾脆自己動手提升戰力。美方無法藉馬英九提子， 只好改從民進黨下手，這便是南海爭端為蔡英文製造的轉機。然而， 台灣戰略地位提升，對國家發展是轉機還是風險呢？
但民進黨自己的南海政策是什麼，卻是始終沒說清楚的事。 尤其蔡英文在華府數場與美方的閉門會議， 究竟對南海爭端表達何種立場，是否有交換美方支持的密室承諾？ 民進黨僅聲明不放棄太平島，但中華民國對南海的主權不只此島， 蔡英文對於十一段線的立場是迎合美方期待棄海就島， 還是延續我國一九四七年以來的一貫主張呢？選前模糊以討好各方， 選後仍必須清楚表態：民進黨政府是「聯美制中」 以加強戰略夥伴關係，還是「延續馬規」在美中之間保持等距， 不捲入爭端？
以中俄對抗美日的格局正為新冷戰時代揭開序幕。 無論此說是否誇大，我們應該知道兩岸已走上和解之路， 不能也不該走回頭路。有意問鼎大位的政治人物， 無論藍綠都有責任向人民清楚交代如何處理涉及主權爭議的問題， 更不能將此當成個人政治利益之籌碼。除了兩岸問題的曖昧， 蔡英文對南海問題的立場也必須更透明才行！