The CNA account (Taipei Times) of the latest Senkakus spat with its presentation of the government's comically droll position: "Japan must be rational":
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday urged Japan to adopt a “rational” attitude about a Taiwanese protest boat that sailed into waters near the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) earlier in the day.The boat went to the island, the Japanese coast guard got in its way, then sprayed water from water cannons on it, and the ROC Coast Guard answered with water cannons [one moment please. I'm suppressing the urge to make phallic puns.] The ship from Taiwan then returned, its mission to plant a shrine on the island unconsummated [ok, let me have one bad pun.]
“The voyage was a voluntary action by private citizens and should in no way affect Taiwan-Japan fishery talks,” said Su Chii-cherng (蘇啟誠), the deputy director-general of the ministry’s Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
I especially love MOFA's admonition that Japan must be "rational." As if letting shiploads of loons into a disputed area to provoke two huge neighboring powers is rational. Such language seems intended to arouse Japanese pride even more.
And what if the Chinese ships had decided to intervene on behalf of the ROC Coast Guard vessels? Or someone screws up and intervenes. I sure hope a protocol is in place to cover that contingency. The government said that the Chinese vessels had been warned off, just to show the two sides weren't cooperating -- as if their simultaneous appearance in location and time was just a coincidence. Sure. Cooperation doesn't have to be overt to be effective, and everyone involved knows what the game is.
The China Post scribed:
The seven people onboard the fishing vessel were Chinese Association for Protecting the Diaoyutais (中華保釣協會) Chairman Hsieh Mang-lin (謝夢麟), four fellow activists, the ship's captain, an Indonesian crew member and a reporter.The usefulness of "private" organizations as political pawns in the KMT Administration's game of using the Senkakus to irritate relations between Taiwan and Japan could hardly be better demonstrated. The results are also clear. Again the CP:
Hsieh previously told local media they were planning to install a statue of Mazu (媽祖) on one of the islands in the hope that the Taoist sea goddess would protect the safety of Taiwanese fishermen operating in the area.
Su, however, said Tokyo has hinted that the incident could jeopardize a second preparatory meeting for the long-stalled 17th round of Taiwan-Japan fishery talks.DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang made this point in an interview a couple of weeks ago with the Taipei Times, arguing that the KMT is escalating tension on purpose:
The meeting, originally set to be held in January or February this year, was meant for both sides to reach a consensus on fishing boundaries around the disputed Diaoyutai Islands.
At the first preparatory meeting held in Tokyo on Nov. 30, 2012 both parties failed to reach a consensus regarding fishing operations in the region.
The previous 16 rounds of fishery talks, dating back to 1996, failed to deliver concrete results and the talks, which were originally supposed to be annual, have been stalled since 2009.
Although the former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration upheld the nation’s claims to the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) and the South China Sea, two areas that have seen escalating disputes recently, there is a “huge” difference between the policies of the DPP and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said in an interview on Thursday.Su is half-right. Washington did assume that Ma would keep things quiet, both erroneously misreading Ma's fundamentally ideological mode of action, and wrongfully blaming Chen Shui-bian for "provoking" China. Unfortunately from what I see Washington hasn't meaningfully revised its opinion of Ma Ying-jeou. First impressions...so important.
“Washington assumed that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) would promote stable cross-strait relations — until the Diaoyutai dispute took place, when the US realized there has been a great shift in the balance of cross-strait relations,” Su told the Taipei Times.
The DPP claimed sovereignty over the islands during its eight years in power, Su said, but this did not lead to conflict with Japan.
“Fifteen rounds of fisheries talks were held during that time, while only one’s been held during Ma’s five years in office,” Su said.
The fisheries issue highlights how Ma has screwed up relations with Japan. The DPP kept the fisheries talks going and kept the Senkakus issue from disrupting the relationship. Ma, by contrast, is a True Believer in a Greater Chinese Empire that includes Taiwan, the Senkakus, and Okinawa (Doubt me?). Remember in June of 2008 when the Premier sad he didn't rule out force in the Senkakus? That was after a Taiwanese ship captain had rammed/been rammed by a Japanese vessel. The Ma Administration's goal is to gently isolate Taiwan from its two big allies, Tokyo and Washington, so that the perception of increased distance and isolation will encourage the public to become resigned to the fate of annexation to China.
UPDATE: I was thinking about this post today and realized I'd missed a connection. The "activists" had intended to place a statue of Matzu on the Senkakus, ostensibly because she is a sea goddess. But Matzu worship is one of the areas of cross-strait cooperation between pro-China elements in Taiwan and the CCP (see this). I wonder if there is a hidden meaning to the Matzu statue.
REFS: Washington opposes actions that unilaterally change Japanese Administration of the islands
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