In a long discussed move, Japan has confirmed that the government has purchased the Senkaku (Diaoyutai in Beijing and Taipei) Islands (BBC report). Taipei has already stated it will not recognize any such purchase since the ROC owns those islands (just as it owns Mongolia and Tibet). Indeed, the ROC representative in Tokyo chided the Japanese in a newspaper article, saying they must work toward solving the "territorial dispute." President Ma meanwhile made a two-hour trip to Pengjia Islet, to shake his fist at the Japanese. Yawn.
President Ma has called for three nation (Taipei, Beijing, Tokyo) talks on the various island issues, which he calls the 東海和平倡議. Yes, the "east sea" as a friend pointed out, a Chinese term. Ma, no pragmatist, constantly references his Chinese identity in affairs like this; the seas are "east" from the perspective of China (full text of his speech).
ROC spokespersons invariably use "Taiwan" in these disputes. The obvious goal of all this "Taiwan" talk, reinforced in the media which sloppily attributes the ROC claim to the Senkakus to "Taiwan", is to get the Taiwanese people to identify with the ROC in this matter and to make a dent in their love of Japan by making them imagine that "Taiwan" owns the Senkakus. Very slick and slippery. For some Taiwanese it appears to be working.
In addition, Taipei's attempts to increase its position in the island disputes is an obvious move to make foreign policy progress somewhere, anywhere. Since the KMT and CCP agreed on the "diplomatic truce" the Ma government has had nothing to show for five years of diplomacy: ECFA is a bust, the Ryan Leaf of trade agreements, no FTAs, no new "diplomatic allies" and no real increased participation in international organizations. The island disputes offer scope for President Ma to look assertive and protective of the national polity, to look like a Big Man. This is a common approach for political leaders the world over: when the economy is sputtering and domestic affairs are a mess, make a bold move in foreign policy! As the Taipei Times noted in an editorial, the problem is that Ma risks aligning Taiwan with Beijing in the dispute, which would undermine its own sovereignty, and of course, Taiwan lacks the clout to bring either Beijing or Tokyo to the table.
- The Never Ending Drama in the South China Sea
- Defense News reports that tensions are rising in the South China Sea
- As China's naval forces increasingly are aimed at resolving regional disputes, Japan will probably increase its naval budget after years of incremental cuts: EAF
- Should US ratify the convention on the law of the sea?
- Territorial disputes reveal Japan's weakness
- Japan should cede the Senkakus and Dokdo
- Denny Roy argues cogently that the rationale for US intervention in the South China Sea is wrong and needs changed. Good one, D.R.
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