China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 28, 2015
Executive Summary: Storm clouds have again gathered over the South China Sea. The US guided missile destroyer Lassen defied stern warnings from Beijing, and sailed within 12 nautical miles of reefs belonging to China. Washington was determined to show that it does not recognize China's sovereignty over islands and reefs in the South China Sea. Yesterday evening Mainland Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Zhang Yesui summoned US Ambassador Max Baucus, and made solemn representations and protests. US military action has escalated, turning Washington's East Asian rebalancing strategy into a confrontation with Mainland China. That confrontation has now reached the breaking point. The repercussions will be felt all across Southeast Asia, even in Taipei.
Full Text Below:
Storm clouds have again gathered over the South China Sea. The US guided missile destroyer Lassen defied stern warnings from Beijing, and sailed within 12 nautical miles of reefs belonging to China. Washington was determined to show that it does not recognize China's sovereignty over islands and reefs in the South China Sea. Yesterday evening Mainland Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Zhang Yesui summoned US Ambassador Max Baucus, and made solemn representations and protests. US military action has escalated, turning Washington's East Asian rebalancing strategy into a confrontation with Mainland China. That confrontation has now reached the breaking point. The repercussions will be felt all across Southeast Asia, even in Taipei.
On closer examination however, the United States action was highly calculated. The Mainland has expressed solemn objections. But it must be cautious about follow-up actions and long-term countermeasures. Beijing seeks to make the Mainland an “affluent society” by 2020. Taipei is caught between two giants. It must respond to this new situation with care.
Beijing has reclaimed land on seven islands or reefs in the South China Sea. Washington chose to sail past "low-tide elevation" reefs that only appear at low tide. According to international law, one may not claim rights over such reefs. Washington chose to sail past low-tide elevation reefs. Its action was relatively restrained. Therefore Beijing should avoid unnecessarily raising tensions.
Taipei must exercise caution regarding these developments in the South China Sea. The current government or whatever government emerges next year must avoid being dragged into the conflict, lest the national interest be damaged.
The clash between Washington and Beijing over the South China Seas puts Taipei in an difficult position. From the perspective of history, culture, and descent, Taipei obviously ought to stand on the side of Beijing. But from the perspective of current history and national security, its first choice should be Washington. Taipei faces changing circumstances and an uncertain situation. Rushing to choose sides will significantly undermine our interests, no matter which side we choose. Choosing between Beijing and Washington would immediately lead to the loss of strategic maneuvering room. The consequent damage to our interests would be incalculable.
The East Asian diplomatic community has a widely-told true story relating to the South China Sea. When Hillary Clinton was US Secretary of State, she wrestled with Beijing over the South China Sea issue. During a 2011 meeting in Southeast Asia, Clinton and then Mainland Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi exchanged fire. Clinton argued for freedom of navigation. Yang said nations from outside the region should refrain from making irresponsible remarks. According to participants, Clinton and Yang never made eye contact. The luncheon was a buffet with free seating. This enabled participants to talk with whomever they wished. Clinton and Yang were the first to seat themselves. Other foreign ministers were dumbfounded to find Clinton and Yang seated at opposite ends of a rectangular dining table, in strict accordance with diplomatic protocol.
The result was "seating by skin color". People with yellow skin sat on one side of the table. People from New Zealand and Australia, and other whites sat on Clinton's side of the table. Why? Geopolitics. "The Americans are very powerful right now. But will they one day suddenly get up and leave? We have to live here. We cannot get away." Truer words have never been spoken.
Nor can Taiwan get away. The best way to avoid choosing sides is to uphold the Republic of China Constitution. Upholding the Constitution is a comprehensive, not piecemeal, ad hoc approach. In 1947, when the Republic of China Constitution was implemented, we made our stand crystal clear. According to the Republic of China Constitution, the South China Sea territory is denoted by the U-shaped line. We call on all parties to reduce tensions and exercise restraint. We reiterate the South China Sea peace initiative.
When the Republic of China Constitution was implemented in 1947, the U-shaped line had already been announced. It conformed with the principles and practices of international law in 1945, the year of the Truman Declaration. The U-shaped line claim is valid. The ROC Constitution has been effective with regards this proposition. Article IV of the Republic of China Constitution states that "the long held territory of the Republic of China cannot be changed without a resolution by the National Assembly". Since then, no resolutions pertaining to our national territory have been passed. On November 26, 1993, Constitutional Interpretation No. 328 explicitly defined the boundaries of our national territory, and stipulated that they may not be changed by means of a constitutional interpretation.
Therefore politicians must not make facile, myopic proposals. Not only is doing so unconstitutional, it also puts the nation in danger. We would also like to address the presidential candidates. They must declare their stand on this major issue, one that affects our national territory and national security. They must make clear how, based on our Constitution, Taipei can avoid conflict in the South China Sea and advance a peace strategy. The ROC is a disputant in the South China Sea imbroglio. As such it can play a positive role in international affairs, one far more meaningful than idle chatter about joining the United Nations.
穿越大陸島礁十二海里線內水域， 展現美國不承認中國大陸島礁主權的決心。 大陸外交部副部長張業遂昨天傍晚召見美國大使包可士， 提出嚴正交涉和強烈抗議。 美國的軍事動作已讓東亞再平衡戰略與中國的對抗形勢， 更接近了臨界點。影響所及， 東南亞相關國家乃至我方都將受到波及。
大陸初步已表達嚴正的立場， 但後續的行動與長期對策仍應仔細思考，務必以2020年達成中國 基本小康社會為最高目標。而台灣在兩大之間難為小， 面對中美新形勢必須格外小心應對。
選擇穿越的島礁屬於「低潮高地」島礁； 也就是在低潮時才出現在海平面上的島礁；這種島礁， 在現行國際法上，其實原本就不能主張任何權利。美方選擇「 低潮高地」島礁穿越，是相對自制的作法， 北京也應避免緊張再無端升高。
無論是現任政府乃至明年將會出現的下一任政府， 在此事上都必須審慎將事；以免遭無端捲入， 平白導致國家利益受損。
台灣的處境是最尷尬的。就歷史、文化、血緣來看， 台灣無疑是應站在大陸的一邊； 但若就當代史乃至階段性國家安全而言，首選應該是美國。 然若就台灣所面臨的現狀，在情勢多變且不確定的狀況下， 一旦貿然選邊且作出明確表態，無論選擇哪一邊， 必將導致我方利益受到重大傷害。 在北京與華府戰略情勢緊繃的狀態下，一旦明確選邊， 將立即導致我方戰略迴旋空間的喪失；隨之而來的國家利益損失， 將是無可估量的。
在希拉蕊出任美國務卿時，曾因南海問題和大陸鬧得不可開交。20 11年東南亞一項有關南海的會議中， 希拉蕊和當時大陸外交部長楊潔箎駁火較勁，希拉蕊力主航行自由， 楊則主張域外國家不應說三道四。據與會人士表示， 會場中希楊二人連眼神都沒有交集一下。會議午宴採自助式， 自由入座，讓與會人士有自由交談機會。希楊二人先行取餐就座； 各國外長取餐完畢回到用餐地點時，全部當場傻眼；原來， 用餐桌是一長方形桌，希楊二人各據一頭； 這就是外交上要求表態的作法。
紐澳等白種人則坐在希的一邊。為何如此，答案是「地緣政治」。「 他們美國人是很強大沒錯，可是我們怎麼知道， 他們不會有一天突然就離開了，我們還要在這裡過日子的， 我們跑不掉。」誠哉斯言。
就是堅持主張《中華民國憲法》的立場，是完整的憲法立場； 不是破破碎碎、片片斷斷的刪節版。很簡單，民國36年（1947 年），《中華民國憲法》公布實施時，我們的主張是什麼就是什麼。 在主張《中華民國憲法》南海疆域為U形線下， 我們呼籲各方自制以降低緊張，並且重申南海和平倡議的立場。
且依當時國際法原則及慣例（1945年，即民國34年的杜魯門宣 言），U形線的主張是有效的。我國憲法就此一主張一直有效迄今。 按《中華民國憲法》第四條，明訂，「 中華民國之領土依其固有之疆域，非經國民大會之決議， 不得變更之。」至今沒有通過任何領土相關決議。民國82年11月 26日的第328號釋憲案，明訂國家領土疆域之界定， 不得以釋憲方式為之。
還可能把國家帶入危險深淵。我們也呼籲要競爭大位的總統參選人， 應就此一攸關國家領土與安全的重大問題表態， 把本身的相關主張和立場講清楚，台灣在憲法基礎上， 如何扮演積極的角色，避免南海衝突升高， 並提出有利南海和平的策略。台灣是南海爭議當事方， 能在國際事務發揮積極角色，要比空談加入聯合國有意義得多。