Su Tseng-chang's Phony Defense of Diaoyutai
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
November 26, 2013
Summary: Su Tseng-chang has long been weak on the Diaoyutai sovereignty issue. He has never shown any inclination to defend the Diaoyutai Islands. Yet he is demanding that Ma Ying-jeou get tough. He himself remains weak, yet he demands that others show strength. But suppose getting tough leads Taiwan into a trap? How secure will Su Tseng-chang feel then?
Full Text below:
The Mainland China Ministry of Defense has included the Diaoyutai Islands in its East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. The US and Japanese response was vehement. U.S. Defense Secretary Charles Hagel reiterated that the US-Japan Mutual Defense Treaty applied to Diaoyutai. Secretary of State John Kerry accused Mainland China of unilaterally changing the status quo. Japan continued escalating its protests. Mainland China responded strongly to US and Japanese declarations. East China Sea tensions rapidly heated up. Taipei finds itself caught between Beijing and Tokyo. Its position was sensitive to begin with. Now it finds itself caught in a conflict between Beijing, Washington, and Tokyo. It must respond with caution. Yet DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang has increased tensions by making wild declarations. He really does not seem to understand his position.
First Su Tseng-chang accused Beijing of "regional hegemony." He demanded that President Ma Ying-jeou get tough, "Otherwise he would not only be looked upon with contempt, but the enemy would soon be at our gates." Other DPP legislators said that if the Ma administration failed to issue a solemn warning [to Beijing], "In the future [Mainland] China might announce that Taiwan was part of its national territory." These unfounded allegations were outrageous.
Beijing included the Diaoyutai Islands in its East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone as a defensive move. Its purpose was to counter Japan's Diaoyutai Islands "nationalization" strategy. It was Mainland China's way of asserting sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands. Taipei insists that Diaoyutai Islands sovereignty belongs to the Republic of China. But it is willing to shelve disputes with Japan, and engage in joint development. Beijing-Tokyo conflict erupted over Diaoyutai Islands sovereignty. For the sake of stable cross-strait relations and its traditional friendship with Washington and Tokyo, Taipei proposed an East China Sea Peace Initiative and called on all parties to remain calm and exercise restraint.
The DPP has been mealy-mouthed regarding Diaoyutai Islands sovereignty. Many in the DPP support Lee Teng-hui's claim that "The Diaoyutai Islands belong to Japan." But some believe Diaoyutai Islands sovereignty belongs to DPP governed Yilan County. Su Tseng-chang has publicly supported "The Diaoyutai Islands belong to Japan" position. Last year Japan unilaterally "nationalized" the Diaoyutai Islands. This led to Sino-Japanese tensions, and embarrassing and self-contradictory cross-Strait relations. The ROC government solemnly declared that it does not recognize Japan's unilateral actions, and reaffirmed its sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands. Su Tseng-chang was visiting Japan at the time, as a "Friend of Japan." He publicly declared that Diaoyutai Islands Defense Movement actions on both sides of the Strait were "destabilizing the region." He called on the United States, Japan, and Korea to form a "democratic alliance" to contain Mainland China. One has to wonder whether Su Tseng-chang is a citizen of Japan or the Republic of China?
Prior to Japanese occupation, the Diaoyutai Islands were part of China's territory. This is not in dispute. After World War II, it should have been returned to the Republic of China, along with Penghu and the rest of Taiwan. The US allowed Japan to administer the islands. But sovereignty still belonged to the Republic of China. Following cross-Strait reconciliation, the Republic of China reaffirmed its sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands in the national interest. This would have been the most effective assertion of sovereignty, and the one most consistent with the dignity and interests of the Chinese nation. Unfortunately, elements on Taiwan undermined the consensus regarding sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands. Taipei's long friendly relations with Washington and Tokyo limited its ability to fight for its sovereignty. This forced Mainland China to take the lead in defending sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands.
Mainland China established an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. This led to tensions in East Asia. But the Mainland did not invade Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone. The MAC issued a statement on behalf of the government. It said "The Diaoyutai Islands are Republic of China territory. " It called on Beijing to shelve disputes, and not increase regional tensions." This strong advice took into account the stability of cross-Strait relations and Taipei's traditional friendship wtih Washington and Tokyo. Yet the Democratic Progressive Party issued a statement on Taipei-Tokyo and Taipei-Washington relations. It screamed about "The enemy at our gates." The Mainland's demarcation of airspace was aimed at Japan. How does that make it "The enemy at our gates?" Both the ROC and PRC constitutions include territory under the other's jurisdiction. Naturally Mainland China has the constitutional authority to fight Japan for sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands on behalf of Taiwan.
The strategic situation in East Asia is complex. If Taipei takes Beijing's side, that may be beneficial to cross-strait relations. But it would offend the US-Japan security alliance. Also, cross-Strait relations are now in the "deep end of the pool." Beijing on one side, and Washington and Tokyo on the other side, have yet to pressure Taipei to take sides. Taipei is still able to maintain strategic ambiguity. But Mainland China is on the rise. It is determined to achieve East Asian regional hegemony in the 21st century. The United States has decided to return to Asia, in order to maintain U.S. strategic dominance. China and Japan are a case of "one mountain with no room for two tigers." The complex strategic situation means the sovereignty dispute will be difficult to resolve. The situation has become increasingly intense. Taiwan may one day be compelled to choose sides.
The Chinese people on both sides of the Strait belong to one family. Historical developments have made Taiwan dependent on the US-Japan strategic relationsship. The status quo must change with the times. Strategic conflict may compress the timline. Blue vs. Green confrontation remains intense. That is Taiwan's tragedy. East Asian strategic warming is advantageous to Taiwan. But the situation appears to be moving in the opposite direction. Taiwan must exercise strategic caution.
Su Tseng-chang has long been weak on the Diaoyutai sovereignty issue. He has never shown any inclination to defend the Diaoyutai Islands. Yet he is demanding that Ma Ying-jeou get tough. He himself remains weak, yet he demands that others show strength. But suppose getting tough leads Taiwan into a trap? How secure will Su Tseng-chang feel then?
社論－蘇貞昌假保釣 自己軟 逼人硬
中國時報 本報訊 2013年11月26日 04:09