Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fisheries Agreement

A spider checks on lunch amid drops of dew.

Some interesting comments on the recent Japan-Taiwan fisheries agreement in the TT today:

"Sovereignty", which as Heinlein once wittily noted, is a word between sober and sozzled in the dictionary....
Given that the parties to the accord are defined as Taiwan and Japan in sub-paragraph (b) of paragraph 3 of Article 2, it is unnecessary to use “competent authorities” in lieu of “both Parties (viz, Taiwan and Japan)” as stated in Article 4, Hu said.

Hu said he thought the substitution was made because “competent authorities are not emblematic of state sovereignty.”

If the competent authority is seen as the Fisheries Agency, it does not represent the nation, Hu said.
...and thus, as the TT notes, is a "demotion" of the nation's claims. Although, the TT article consistently uses "Taiwan" instead of "the Republic of China". Since "Taiwan" has no claim to the Senkakus, but the ROC is pushing one, for once it might have behooved the Taipei Times to accurately identify the entity on whose behalf these claims are being made. One of the side effects of the Senkakus claims is that it is constantly use to identify the ROC with Taiwan and vice versa by the true believers in the KMT. So far the public has been consistently indifferent to this claim. Of course...
In another scenario, if Taiwanese fishing vessels avoid entering the area, voluntarily or not, that could mean that Taiwan “indirectly acknowledged Japan’s claim of sovereignty over and administrative control of the Diaoyutais,” Hu said.
Yup. Surely the Japanese saw this, and also saw that however faintly, to weaken the ROC claim is also to put a ghost of a dent in the PRC claim. And as many observers noted, to separate China from the ROC on this issue is important.

I'm thinking that the fisheries accord, if it actually does come to be meaningful, will likely lead to increased pressure on Japan from Beijing. But the TT piece says...
The signing of the accord reflects the great importance that Japanese Prime Minister Shino Abe has attached to Taiwan, and its implications go beyond just the bilateral relationship, Ho said. By having Taiwan jointly manage the designated fishing zone, Japan does not need to confront China head on in case of the latter’s maritime surveillance ships entering the waters near the islands, he said.

“China would not risk sabotaging cross-strait rapprochement by not reining in unwanted behaviors that could tensions,” he said.
It's a textbook example of the kind of magical thinking that pervades the problem of Chinese expansionism. The rapprochement is between the CCP and the KMT; there is nothing that China could do in the Senkakus that would endanger the understanding between the two parties, because the thrust to annex the Senkakus and the thrust to annex Taiwan are two parts of the same expanionist trend supported by Chinese nationalists on both sides of the Strait. After all, the current President of the ROC wrote his thesis to back the Chinese claim to the Senkakus. End of story, really. Moreover, the article says earlier:
The Coast Guard Administration has vowed to take measures proportionate to actions taken by its Japanese counterpart in the event of an intrusion in the area by Taiwanese fishing vessels and vice versa, Hu said.

“This suggests that conflicts in the region could erupt at any time even with the fisheries accord in place,” Hu said.
This might actually be good for overall tensions, since it is much better that coast guard boats from Taiwan spray water on coast guard boats from Japan and vice versa than Chinese and Japanese boats face off directly.

We'll see what further negotiations produce, and more importantly, what happens when the fall begins....

James Holmes in his generally excellent column at the Naval Diplomat observes that the agreement was good for three reasons....
3. It shows that Taipei is no one's crummy little toady.
2. It reminds everyone that Taiwan remains a responsible de facto sovereign.
1. It shows how mature powers conduct themselves.
These are, on the whole, good things. This was an important success for the Ma Administration and for Taiwan, and it would be a shame if the whole thing was made small by the antics of "activists" and another round of the water cannon exchange stupidity.
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