China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
November 24, 2015
Executive Summary: President Ma Ying-jeou has said that he will implement his South China Sea Peace Initiative at an opportune time. Now is an opportune time. During moments of conflict, peace becomes an international imperative. The ROC and the Philippines have signed cooperation agreements on law enforcement. Overall planning and regional implementation of the South China Sea Peace Initiative has already begun. The road map includes three principles: upholding the constitution, respecting international law, and promoting international cooperation. These three principles explain our national policy and merit our continued support.
Full Text Below:
The world's attention is focused on the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris. Nevertheless the South China Sea situation remains a matter of global concern. US warships and long-range bombers have repeatedly entered the South China Sea. The US has declared its determination to “uphold freedom of navigation”. Japan also says it will send warships into the South China Sea. An international tribunal has ruled against Mainland China on the matter of South China Sea islands and reefs, provoking unease in the Mainland media. The dispute will impact the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation council meeting recently concluded on the 19th. Mainland China Premier Li Keqiang proposed five initiatives to resolve the South China Sea issue during the East Asia Summit convened on the 22nd. He presented Mainland China's bottom line, including both carrots and sticks. Storm clouds now hang over the South China Sea.
The Sino-US struggle has threatened the security of neighboring countries in the South China Sea. The ROC Constitution is clear. Taiping Island is under our jurisdiction. The ROC is a stakeholder, but we are denied a voice in international fora. We are denied a voice in bilateral and multilateral organizations. We are denied the opportunity to voice our policy. This may leave us even more marginalized, to the detriment of our sovereignty over Taiping Island. We must make ourselves heard within the international community. We must fight for our rights. Since 2008, the role of the ROC in East Asia has been that of peacemaker. This gives us an opportunity to become involved in the South China Sea.
With regards the disputed waters, our long-standing policy has been that "sovereignty cannot be divided, but resources can be shared". It has been to address the matter of resource use and management first, in order to cool emotions. Then, when the time is right, return and address the sovereignty issue. Our position has enabled us to play an important role in resolving the East China Sea dispute.
In August 2012, President Ma advanced his East China Sea Peace Initiative. He urged the disputant nations to reduce tensions and initiate dialogue in order to facilitate a peaceful settlement of disputes. The folowing year, in April 2013, the ROC and Japan signed a fisheries agreement. This was an important implementation of the East China Sea Peace Initiative. Since the signing of Taiwan-Japan fisheries agreement, almost no fishing disputes have arisen, and catches have significantly increased. The two sides have shelved territorial disputes. The international community has acknowledged this contribution to the resolution of East China Sea disputes.
This year, in May 2015, President Ma advanced his South China Sea Peace Initiative. He urged all South China Sea disputant nations to reduce tensions and initiate dialogue, and reach a peaceful resolution to the dispute. On November 5 the ROC and the Philippines signed a fisheries law enforcement cooperation agreement. This established law enforcement cooperation mechanisms, an emergency notification system, and a speedy release mechanism to guard against a repeat of the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28 tragedy, during which fishermen from Taiwan were shot dead by Philippine Coast Guard personnel.
The ROC has adopted a policy of self-restraint and peaceful settlement of disputes. But it remains unshakable regarding matters of sovereignty. On September 1, 2014, President Ma Ying-jeou issued his South China Sea Islands Map, based on international law. On May 26, 2015, he issued his South China Sea Peace Initiative. On July 7, 2015, he issued his Republic of China Position on the South China Sea Issue. On October 31, 2015, the Republic of China government reaffirmed its position regarding the South China Sea dispute. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press release affirming ROC sovereignty over four island chains in the South China Sea. These claims rooted in history and jurisprudence.
Our sovereignty over these Pacific islands is a matter of record, and not subject to distortion by other nations.
In more cautious terms, such disputes inevitably involve constitutional provisions regarding our territorial sovereignty. There is no room for concessions. This is why our position remains firm. We cannot allow outside forces to intervene in the recent South China Sea dispute. We must confront these challenges head on.
Officially the United States has condemned the Chinese mainland for its land reclamation projects. It has raised the issue of freedom of navigation. But the US government says it will not choose sides in territorial and sovereignty disputes among other countries. On this point, it deserves praise and encouragement. It should continue this policy of not choosing sides. Whether to choose sides in the South China Sea dispute has become an important issue for the ROC
The Ma Ying-jeou government's national security policy is "remain close to the US, remain friendly with Japan, and remain at peace with the Mainland". It illusrates the need to address these disputes over surrounding waters. Any bias will arouse suspicions or provoke an intense backlash. The ROC is committed to promoting peace. Bias would be unwise. Carefully maintaining a balance between Taipei-Washington relations and cross-Strait relations is conducive to our national interests. It is also important for stable regional development. Therefore choosing sides is not consistent with our policy interests in the South China Sea dispute.
President Ma Ying-jeou has said that he will implement his South China Sea Peace Initiative at an opportune time. Now is an opportune time. During moments of conflict, peace becomes an international imperative. The ROC and the Philippines have signed cooperation agreements on law enforcement. Overall planning and regional implementation of the South China Sea Peace Initiative has already begun. The road map includes three principles: upholding the constitution, respecting international law, and promoting international cooperation. These three principles explain our national policy and merit our continued support.