TAIPEI: A Taiwanese official has called for a peaceful settlement of maritime disputes in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
Joseph S.C. Hua, director-general of Taiwan’s Department of Cultural and Educational Affairs at the Mainland Affairs Council, on Wednesday said Taiwan’s peaceful approach to resolving maritime disputes with Japan and the Philippines “can be applied in settling issues in the South China Sea to create a winning situation for all parties.”
“In fact, [Taiwanese] President Ma [Ying-jeou] already said the countries involved in the South China Sea could also use his formula [in settling maritime issues]in East China Sea,” Hua told The Manila Times.
He was referring to President Ma’s proposal, the East China Sea Peace Initiative, which aims to address disputes over the Diaoyutais, also known as the Diaoyu Islands in China and the Senkaku Islands in Japan.
The island group, which is also being claimed by China and Taiwan, has been under Japan’s administrative control since 1972.
The peace initiative calls for parties concerned to shelve differences and jointly explore resources.
After Ma proposed the initiative, Taiwan has taken a similar approach to dealing with fishing disputes with the Philippines, with both countries negotiating an agreement on cooperation in maritime law enforcement in their overlapping economic waters.
“The main goal of this initiative is to have multilateral talks between concerning parties to resolve the issues in a peaceful way,” Hua said.
But he pointed out that “Taiwan is not giving up its territorial claim over Senkaku Islands.”
“It’s not the case. But it is a hope that concerned parties could sit down and talk to resolve their disputes,” Hua said.
He cited as a “good example” the fishery agreement between Taiwan and Japan that was signed last April. This allows fishermen from both countries to operate in a designated area of their overlapping economic waters in the East China Sea to resolve long-standing disputes.
“We hope this could be applied to the South China Sea. Like I said, no unification, no use of force and the issues in the region, whether political or economic could be resolved in a peaceful way,” Hua said.
He added that Taiwan also called for continuation of talks for a Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea between the Asean and China.
“We hope the COC could be established among parties concerned to govern such standoffs at sea,” Hua said.
The South China Sea has become a hotbed of political tensions between surrounding nations, with overlapping claims by six parties (including Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Taiwan) centered mostly around fishing and oil rights.
Manila, which calls part of the disputed areas the West Philippine Sea, has sought international arbitration before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (Itlos).
It has asked the Itlos to nullify China’s massive claims over the South China Sea.
The Philippines already has alliances with the United States and Japan, who have also been critical of perceived Chinese expansionist moves in the South China Sea.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd is expected to raise China’s aggression, particularly its massive reclamation activities on contested islands and reefs in the South China Sea in this week’s Asean Summit.
Aquino will again call for the crafting of a formal Code of Conduct that would govern nations’ actions in the South China Sea.
“We will reiterate our call for the formulation of the Code of Conduct. This was tried in 2002, but this was not done. The DOC [Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea], came out, and in our view, this is being violated. That’s why it’s imperative to push for the Code of Conduct,” he said.
Malacañang also on Wednesday chided China for its “insecurity” over its claim to the West Philippine Sea, after a Beijing-based tabloid dubbed the country a “cute little submissive” of the United States.
The response from President Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda came after the Global Times newspaper — with close ties to the ruling Communist Party — featured an editorial on Tuesday saying it was “laughable” imagining Philippine personnel “stumbling after US forces.”
“We don’t understand where this insecurity of the Chinese toward us is coming from. Where do we have the wherewithal to compete against China as a superpower?” Lacierda said.
He defended the Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) military exercises between the Philippines and the United States that began this week, saying these were regular events not related to the territorial dispute with China.