A new report from CRS was profiled in the Taipei Times today. The report, Maritime Territorial Disputes in East Asia: Issues for Congress (online at FAS), says that Taiwan puts pressure on Japan in parallel with China.
One issue for U.S. policy concerns trends across the Taiwan Strait since 2008, particularly the question of whether Taiwan’s moves to engage more closely with the PRC have created a greater willingness in Taipei to cooperate with China on issues in which it sees their interests as aligned, such as in the East China Sea. Some analysts argue that there is an issue for U.S. policymakers surrounding whether Taiwan coordinated with the PRC in asserting sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands against Japan amid rising tension in September 2012. Beijing has urged cooperation over the islands to advance cross-strait ties. Taipei’s officials have denied cooperating with the PRC. Even without explicit coordination, the parallel actions of the PRC and Taiwan in the current East China Sea flare-up have added pressure against Japan. Both the PRC and Taiwan deployed government patrol ships and military assets that raised concerns about the potential for accidental collisions and the escalation of tensions.The government in Taipei is clearly attempting to stoke the Diaoyutai issue at home, to drum up some faux nationalism and to divert attention from the many problems the economy is facing. During recent exercises the military wore patches saying "The Diaoyutai are ours!" (DefenseNews). In the most recent exchange of water cannon fire between ROC coast guard vessels and Japanese ships, Chinese ships were hanging around. The two sides probably aren't actively coordinating, but of course they don't need to. Everyone knows the score and knows how they should behave.
On September 25, 2012, Taiwan deployed 12 Coast Guard ships that escorted 60 fishing boats and fired water cannons toward Japan’s patrol ships. Furthermore, Taiwan dispatched military systems sold by the United States during the incident.
For quite some time I've been arguing that the Ma Administration is deliberately using issue such as the beef issue and the Senkakus to perturb and irritate relations with Tokyo and Washington. People are finally starting to notice this (similar argument today in Taipei Times). Now the Congressional Research Service has called attention to the possibility.
I've heard US officials are unhappy with the incidents in the Senkakus. When Chen Shui-bian had a couple of democratic referendums, US officials excoriated him publicly. When Ma Ying-jeou's military confronts Japan in the Senkakus as China shadows events, a place the US is bound by treaty to defend, the US....oh yeah, what has the US said? Nada. All I can say is, Ma is just lucky he isn't pushing a referendum. Then he'd really be in trouble.
Let's not forget, the ROC is also strengthening its presence on the South China Sea islands. As if it wants to irritate relations with nations to the south.....
Really, what did the US expect when they supported Ma? That he would support them? This is a guy who spent his early life being groomed as an ROC ideologue.This is a guy who wrote his thesis on how China owns the Senkakus. This is a guy who dresses up and performs the Confucian rites with children dancing to him like an old-time emperor (remember? Vaguely, you do). This is a guy whose public speeches are filled with open references to Han Chauvinist ideology. This is a guy who publicly speaks as if Taiwan, the Senkakus, and Okinawa all belong to China. This is a guy who thinks he is President of China.
Good luck getting him on board, Washington. I'm sure you'll hear some very pretty words. Would you be having this problem if you'd supported Tsai Ying-wen? As my man Drew remarked today:
It seems the pragmatists were both Chen and especially Lee (those pro-independence firebrands) who maximized Taiwan's international space, saw China's bluffs, but recognized the value of engagement with caution without compromising their principles or spurning valuable allies. They were not dreamy Greater China ideologues. Funny that.________________
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