Recognize Taiwan's Strategic Advantages: Pander Not to Japan
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 3, 2016
Executive Summary: The Tsai government must think long and hard about its behavior when confronted with Japan. It must not reflexively cave in every time. Instead it must understand its strategic advantages. It must negotiate with the Japanese to maximize the interests of the public on Taiwan. Only that counts as responsible government.
Full Text Below:
To deal with the problem of Taiwan fishing vessels fishing in the waters off "Okinotori", Japan convened a "Taiwan-Japan Conference on Ocean Affairs and Cooperation" in Tokyo. But a day of wrangling proved fruitless. Shortly after the DPP government took office, it withdrew from the waters off “Okinotori” on its own, without prompting. The Ma government insisted that “Okinotori” was merely a reef and not an island. During recent talks however, the Tsai government repudiated the Ma government position. Alas, it received nothing in return. It received neither a compromise nor a commitment on fishing rights. The Tsai government may also have undermined our bargaining position in negotiations over the sovereignty of Taiping Island. Tsai government diplomatic ineptitude has left the public frustrated. The ability of Taiwan fishermen to make a living has been severely compromised. No wonder fishermen's groups are up in arms.
Let us examine the issues discussed by the two sides. They include cooperation on fisheries, maritime search and rescue, and science and technology. The scope is broad. Maritime search and rescue cooperation is a matter of national security involving sensitive issues. Participants on our side included the Agriculture Commission Fisheries Agency, the Coast Guard, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the National Security Council. This shows that our concerns are not limited to fishing rights. The Japanese side however, downplayed the matter. It tried to minimize political sensitivity in everything from meeting procedures to seating arrangements. During the talks, the Tsai government renounced the Ma government's insistence that “Okinotoro” was a reef, not an island. The Tsai government merely asked that fishing vessels from Taiwan be permitted to operate outside the 12 nautical mile limit, and protested the seizing of fishing vessels such as the Tung Sheng Chi Number 16. Its demand that fishing vessels be returned was rejected. Instead Japan reaffirmed sovereignty over “Okinotoro” and claimed a 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone.
The DPP took the initiative and made concessions on the island vs. reef issue. Japan accepted the concessions as their rightful due, then turned a deaf ear to our demands on fishing rights. Japan held its ground. It ignored our compromises and concessions. The Tsai government surrendered without a fight. Was this a strategic blunder? Did the Japanese have our number? Or does the DPP government have ulterior motives for allowing Japan to eat its lunch?
After taking office, President Tsai has not explicitly declared that the government was “cozying up to the US and Japan, and distancing itself from the Mainland”. But through her public statements and actual moves, President Tsai hopes to improve her government's relationship with the United States and Japan. She even hopes to become part of the US Pivot to Asia strategy. Therefore, when negotiating with Japan, she repudiated the Ma government strategy of fighting for every last square inch of land. She made strategic concessions to Japan in exchange for its support. But the real world consequences were clearly not what she expected.
Strategically speaking, Taipei and Tokyo do in fact need each other. But during negotiations, Japan puts its national interests first. It never sacrifices its substantive interests for strategic cooperation. Japan is aware of Taiwan's strategic needs. But it is not about to make concessions with regards its substantive interests. Japan has also demanded that Taiwan lift its ban on the import of foodstuffs from disaster-stricken areas. When given an inch, it takes a mile.
From this perspective, the Tsai government committed a strategic blunder. Look back at the Ma government's policy of "close to the US, friendly to Japan, and at peace with the Mainland”. The DPP airily dismissed it as "pandering to China [sic], and selling out Taiwan". In fact Ma's policy involved a shrewd strategic balance. The Ma government used improved cross-Strait relations to force the United States and Japan to fulfill Taiwan's strategic needs, often by making substantive concessions to Taiwan.
In particular, during Taiwan-Japan fisheries negotiations, the Japanese were subject to relentless pressure from the Mainland regarding Diaoyutai. They were forced to cooperate with Taiwan, and make major concessions in order to dissuade Taiwan from cooperating with the Mainland in the defense of Diaoyutai. The Mainland, the US and Japan are engaged in a strategic struggle. Within the cracks Taiwan gained hard won breathing room. It also won major concessions for Taiwan fishermen.
Unfortunately the Tsai government is ideologically committed to opposing the Mainland. It does everything in its power to distance itself in order to reduce pressure from the Mainland. It must rely on outside forces to resist the Mainland. This has led to a loss of strategic footing. Worse, it has enabled the US and Japan to see through its game. Ever since President Tsai's election victory, Japan has sent one delegation after another to Taiwan to demand the lifting of the ban on food imports from Japan's nuclear disaster area. The United States has relentlessly demanded the lifting of the ban on US pork imports. These are practical examples of Taiwan's substantive interests being sacrificed as a consequence of strategic compromises.
Chiu Yi-jen is purportedly a master strategist within the DPP. He is charged with negotiations between Taipei and Tokyo. This makes one wonder just what is Tsai's strategic intent? Why does she cave in whenever she confronts Japan? Why can't she solve this problem? In fact, Taiwan has plenty of chips it can play when dealing with Japan. Since taking office, Abe has been mired in a global strategic battle with the Mainland in the Asia-Pacific region. Every square inch of land is being fought over. Japan clearly does not want the Mainland to control the East Asian region. It is determined to check it with every ounce of strength it can muster.
In other words, Japan's strategic intentions mean that Taiwan and Japan need each other. It is not simply a case of Taiwan needing Japan. As long as Taiwan is able to remain flexible and maintain a balance between the Mainland and Japan, it hold its own and force Japan to choose.
The Tsai government must think long and hard about its behavior when confronted with Japan. It must not reflexively cave in every time. Instead it must understand its strategic advantages. It must negotiate with the Japanese to maximize the interests of the public on Taiwan. Only that counts as responsible government.
2016/11/3 下午 07:38:22 主筆室