The Ma Administration finally did something right. News swept the region and the world this week that Japan and Taiwan have entered into a fishing agreement for the waters around the Senkaku islands...will there be peace? (Japan Times):
Japan and Taiwan concluded a long-awaited fisheries agreement Wednesday in Taipei after officials from both sides formally resumed negotiations for the first time in four years.Since things remain to be negotiated, the two sides agreed to set up a joint fisheries committee to carry on with the work. The Asahi Shimbun pointed out that the lack of agreement meant that Japanese Coast Guard vessels had seized many Taiwanese boats; this should now stop. Michal Thim at Taiwan Perspective gives the details of the agreement. Thim notes:
The deal will allow Taiwanese trawlers to operate in part of Japan’s exclusive economic zone near the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, sources close to the talks said.
Under the deal, Japan and Taiwan will designate an area in Japan’s EEZ as jointly managed waters where fishing by both Japanese and Taiwanese boats will be allowed.
The jointly controlled zone excludes waters within a 12-nautical-mile (19-km) radius of the Japan-held Senkakus.
From Taiwan’s perspective, reaching a deal on fishing rights is the optimal result. Taiwan does not have physical control over the islands and has limited means and thus basically no reason to try and acquire physical control. Domestic public opinion does not allow for a strong anti-Japanese stance and Taiwanese are little interested in territorial nationalism. Thus, fishing rights are the only issue that the public really cares about and this is well reflected by politicians, both from ruling Kuomintang (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who face major elections every two years.As a number of analyses have pointed out, the fishing agreement makes Ma look good at home. On the Japanese side, the agreement enables Tokyo to split Ma from Beijing by offering him a deal. Democracy at work, Ma is following the same policies the DPP did for the same reasons, because they are popular at home. One of the ways Taiwan's democracy protects Taiwan is that it helps enforce such outcomes regardless of which party is in power. The public cares about fishing rights, but does not care about ROC territorial claims, since it identifies with the ROC only to the extent that the ROC is identified with Taiwan. Although, I suspect Washington was quietly working in the backrooms, pushing for Taipei to mend fences with Tokyo and to stop irritating relations with Japan. Corey Wallace, writing on the Japanese media:
While the Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Suge has already argued publicly that the agreement was to restore order over the East China Sea fishing issue and not to “split” China and Taiwan over perceived cooperation surrounding the Senkaku sovereignty dispute, no one, including the Japanese media, believes him. Both Jiji (日) and Yomiuri (日) report that an additional reason for the agreement is indeed to silence repeated Chinese calls for PRC-ROC cooperation over the territorial dispute. Jiji notes that domestically Ma has been forced to become somewhat less of a “hardliner” on the territorial dispute, and Japan’s willingness to make significant concessions played a part in pushing Ma towards relaxing his stance (Richard Katz, of The Oriental Economist, notes in a NBR post that many in Taiwan wanted to prioritize the fishing issue over the territorial issue, as also noted by Michal).Wallace also described that PM Abe comes out of a line of politicians who are pro-Taiwan and who were more willing to make concessions. His and Thim's writings are excellent and should be read in their entirety.
BBC reported that Beijing was whining, as usual. On the surface it looks like Ma's coordination of "activism" in the Senkakus with Beijing will now be curtailed, to Beijing's detriment. I wonder seriously about this and about whether this will backfire on Tokyo and Washington....
For one thing, the agreement is to set aside "sovereignty" differences -- an actual application of mutual non-denial -- but does anyone really not believe that come September, the traditional month of traducing Tokyo, that "activists" campaigning "with no official backing" (the last time they were apparently funded by WantWant owner Robert Tsai) will nonetheless appear off the Senkakus, guarded by Taiwan's mighty water-firing coast guard cannon and fomenting incidents with Japan? After all, two more ships were just commissioned expressly for the purpose of safeguarding sovereignty in contested waters and fishing rights, said Ma hisownself. Taipei can always claim they were freelancers and there is nothing it can do.... the fact that this option exists and of course Tokyo must be aware of it suggests that there is either a secret protocol or an informal agreement that activist stupidity must cease. Otherwise Tokyo is going to look pretty inept when the Ma government shrugs with feigned helplessness and allows "activists" to perturb its relations with Tokyo over some rocks which only Beijing and the KMT argue are Chinese.
But let's say that all is well and the KMT Administration really does restrain its tiny menagerie of pro-Bejing loon-activists. Well hello! What will Beijing have to do to make up for the absence of Taipei as its proxy prick against the goads of Tokyo? Step up the pressure, that's what! Ironically, this agreement to make tuna, not war, might actually result in greater trouble in the Senkakus by removing the Taiwanese proxy and replacing it with real Chinese warships facing Japanese ships. The CS Monitor's staid approval notwithstanding, we'll have to wait for the annual fall antics of Beijing and "activists" in Hong Kong and Taiwan before we really have a handle on what this means.
- Way cool not Taiwan: NASA video: Watery environment on Mars
"What the Curiosity team has found is incredibly exciting. When we combine what we've learned from our remote sensing and contact science instruments, with the data that's coming in from CheMin and SAM, we et get a picture of an ancient, watery environment, which would have been habitable had life been present in it."
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