Office of the President, Republic of China/Taiwan: President Ma Visits Pengjia Islet (East China Sea Peace Initiative Implementation Guidelines)

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September 8, 2012 by Water Wisdom


President Ma Ying-jeou visited Pengjia Islet on the afternoon of September 7. In wide-ranging remarks, he addressed the current situation in the East China Sea. In addition to reiterating the Republic of China’s sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands, he proposed a concrete approach to implementation of the East China Sea Peace Initiative, to be carried out in two different phases. The first phase would involve three separate bilateral dialogues, while the second would involve a single trilateral negotiation process. By “replacing confrontation with dialogue” and “shelving controversies through consultations,” the parties can examine the feasibility of jointly exploring and developing resources in the East China Sea.

After arriving on Pengjia Islet, President Ma visited a patrol station, where he was briefed on radar monitoring and took part in a videoconference with the Coast Guard Administration’s Assignment Command Center and command centers on the Spratly and Pratas Islands to learn about the status of coast guard operations, the transport and supply of daily necessities, damage caused by typhoons in the area, related recovery efforts, and the use of solar power. Later, he visited the weather station and the lighthouse for more briefings. President Ma also presented Coast Guard Administration staff stationed on Pengjia Islet with bonuses as tokens of appreciation for their efforts to defend the Republic of China’s territorial waters. Secretary-General of the National Security Council Hu Wei-jen (胡為真), Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源), Minister of National Defense Kao Hua-chu (高華柱), Minister of the Coast Guard Administration Wang Ginn-wang (王進旺), and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Tung Kuoyu (董國猷) accompanied the president on his visit.

The following are remarks by President Ma during his visit to Pengjia Islet:

Since I took office four years ago, it has been my goal to visit every corner of Taiwan, including Pengjia Islet. In fact, I had planned to visit Pengjia Islet even before August 5 when I proposed the East China Sea Peace Initiative that has generated so much interest in Taiwan and abroad. Over the past few weeks, however, activists from Hong Kong and Japan have landed on the Diaoyutai Islands, and anti-Japanese protests have taken place in 20 cities across mainland China in response to Japanese actions, creating international headlines. With the situation in the East China Sea deteriorating, people are starting to take an increasingly serious look at the East China Sea Peace Initiative. By visiting Pengjia Islet today, I intend to not only reiterate our country’s sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands, but also to propose a number of concrete steps in accordance with the spirit of the Initiative, so as to achieve peace and cooperation in the East China Sea.

Let me start by discussing Pengjia Islet, which covers an area of 1.14 square kilometers – only one-fourth the area of the Diaoyutai Islands – and is located 33 nautical miles north of Keelung. Only 76 nautical miles to the west of the Diaoyutai Islands, Pengjia Islet is the closest ROC-held territory to the island chain.

In terms of administrative jurisdiction, Pengjia Islet is part of the Zhongzheng District of Keelung City, while the Diaoyutai Islands are under the administrative jurisdiction of Daxi Village in Yilan County’s Toucheng Township. Pengjia Islet and the Diaoyutai Islands are volcanic islands located at the edge of a continental shelf in the East China Sea, and are extensions of the Guanyin and Datun mountain ranges in northern Taiwan. They are separated from the Ryukyu Islands by the 2,717-meter deep Okinawa Trough. Pengjia Islet and the Diaoyutai Islands on the one hand, and the Ryukyu Islands on the other hand, therefore belong to different geological areas.

In terms of natural resources, the waters surrounding Pengjia Islet and the Diaoyutai Islands feature an abundance of skipjack tuna, mackerel, and carangidae, and for centuries have been a major fishing ground for fishermen from northeastern Taiwan, who can easily reach this area. Fishermen from the Ryukyu Islands, however, rarely come here to fish due to headwinds and adverse currents. During the period of Japanese occupation (1895-1945), the Taiwan Governor-General’s Office in 1920 officially designated the Diaoyutai Islands and their surrounding waters as skipjack tuna fishing grounds for Taiwan fishermen. Five years later, in 1925, the Office published 《臺灣水產要覽》 (“Overview of Taiwan’s Aquaculture”) and reiterated that the Diaoyutai Islands and their surrounding waters were “important fishing grounds” for Taiwan.

However, since the Diaoyutai dispute flared up in the 1970s, Taiwanese fishermen have frequently been subjected to interference from Japanese coast guard ships while operating in this area, and the volume of fish caught has greatly declined as a result. In 2011, the volume of fish caught in the waters surrounding the Diaoyutai Islands came to only 3,400 metric tons, or less than 5% of the 77,000 metric tons caught around Taiwan’s “three northern isles”— Pengjia Islet, Mianhua Island, and Huaping Island. However, we have heard complaints from citizens who note that no nation is friendlier to Japan than the Republic of China, and ask why Japan interferes with our Taiwanese fishermen when they’re operating in their traditional fishing grounds. This question deserves some serious thought, indeed.

I must emphasize that I am not here today simply to declare this country’s sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands. More importantly, I want to propose a pragmatic and concrete way to resolve this dispute. The East China Sea Peace Initiative I proposed is meant to serve as the means by which we act upon our principles for handling of the Diaoyutai dispute on, i.e. “safeguarding sovereignty, shelving disputes, pursuing peace and reciprocity, and promoting joint exploration and development.” In January 1895, during the First Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese government secretly invaded and occupied the Diaoyutai Islands. This act of aggression violated international law, since the islands were, at the time, Qing Dynasty territory under the jurisdiction of Kavalan Subprefecture (today known as Yilan County), Taiwan Province. The islands were never terra nullius, or “ownerless land.” Furthermore, Japan’s occupation of the islands was never promulgated by Japanese Imperial Decree, meaning that the outside world was not informed of this decision. The occupation was therefore, according to international law, void ab initio. As a result, it had no binding effect on the Qing Dynasty at that time, which is still the case today with the Republic of China. As such, we will never unilaterally shelve disputes, nor will we unilaterally abandon our principles. All parties concerned must act simultaneously to shelve disputes, and act simultaneously to resolve disputes through peaceful means, so that we can jointly explore and develop resources in the East China Sea. This, I believe, is the best way to resolve this issue.

As a responsible stakeholder in the international community, the Republic of China has dealt with this crisis in a cautious and rational manner. We hope to push our proposal for a solution, always with the precondition that our actions must not jeopardize peace and security in East Asia. I also call on both the ruling and opposition parties in Taiwan to end their confrontation and infighting over this issue. They should be united with regard to this matter. The Diaoyutais have been appurtenant to Taiwan since the Ming Dynasty. We defend our sovereignty over the Diaoyutais to protect the rights that Taiwanese fishermen have held in these fishing grounds for hundreds of years, and we must do our utmost to meet their expectations. Therefore, we should come together and unite.

Over the past four years, I have pursued a policy of viable diplomacy, promoted the special partnership between Taiwan and Japan, and been committed to improving cross-strait relations. As a result, our relations with both mainland China and Japan are more cordial than they have been at any other time in the last 60 and 40 years, respectively. I sincerely hope that this state of affairs continues, as it serves the interests of all sides. But if we intend to continue forward with such friendly relations, we should shelve disputes and engage in peaceful dialogue as soon as possible.

Simply put, the objective of the East China Sea Peace Initiative is collective cooperation in a wide range of areas, such as fishing, mining, oceanographic research, environmental protection, maritime security, and unconventional security issues. My intention is that implementation should take place in two stages. The first stage would begin with peaceful dialogue and mutually beneficial talks, which would lead eventually to achievement during the second stage of cooperative exploration and development of resources. As for how these two stages are to be implemented, I propose that we start by holding three separate bilateral dialogues before progressing toward a single trilateral negotiation process. The basic concept is that while national sovereignty cannot be compromised, natural resources can nevertheless be shared. If all parties concerned could agree to set aside the sovereignty issue and explore the feasibility of joint exploration in the spirit of peaceful cooperation, then we could gradually attain the goal of sharing resources.

In the past, Europe has also experienced sovereignty disputes in the North Sea. Yet, through negotiation on joint development and sharing of oil and gas resources, the countries involved were able to transform Brent Crude into a world-renowned brand. Indeed, returning from Europe to the East China Sea issue at hand here in Asia, I believe that as long as all parties concerned can replace confrontation with dialogue and sidestep disputes through consultations, we will be able to achieve the goals of shelving disputes, creating a win-win-win scenario, promoting joint development, and sharing resources.

The parties concerned could start by holding three separate bilateral dialogues—between Taiwan and Japan, between Taiwan and mainland China, and between Japan and the mainland. Once these parties have reached consensus, they could gradually progress toward a single trilateral negotiation process. In concrete terms, this would mean moving “from three separate bilateral dialogues to a single trilateral negotiation process.” Japan and mainland China have bilateral agreements on fishing and petroleum. Taiwan is negotiating a fishery agreement with Japan, and already engages in cooperation with the mainland on oil and gas exploration in the Taiwan Strait as well as maritime rescue. While the existing mechanisms for mutual interaction do not always run smoothly—and at times are reduced to mere formalities—they can be a first step toward creation of a foundation for greater cooperation.

In the international community, peaceful resolution of disputes is generally achieved in one of four ways, namely, negotiation (consultation), mediation (intercession), arbitration, and litigation. These approaches are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but must all begin with negotiation (consultation). Because the three parties have not been able to engage in consultations, the rich resources in the East China Sea have gone untapped for 40 years, which is a senseless waste given today’s high oil prices and food shortages.

Japan has previously proposed to South Korea that the dispute over Dokdo (Takeshima) Island be settled through litigation in an international court. In a recent interview with Japan’s NHK, I too suggested that the Diaoyutai issue be resolved in court. If litigation is not viable, then as long as there is consensus, international arbitration or mediation is not necessarily impossible. However, no matter which avenue is chosen, the two sides must first engage in dialogue and negotiation, without which confrontation could escalate and, I believe, have a highly adverse impact on peace and stability in the East China Sea.

Ever since I took office, we have staunchly safeguarded our fishermen’s right to operate in the Diaoyutai waters. Our coast guard definitely provides protection to all our fishing boats operating legally at sea. The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) has at least one vessel patrolling the Diaoyutai waters at all times to provide protection day and night to our fishermen. Over the past four years or so, CGA patrol vessels have engaged in standoffs with patrol vessels of the Japan Coast Guard on 10 separate occasions, the longest lasting five hours, fully demonstrating our government’s active determination to defend our national territory and fishermen. In contrast to the authorities of mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau, only the ROC regularly dispatches patrol vessels to defend our territorial waters and protect our fishermen.

Our coast guard sailors, under the leadership of CGA Minister Wang Ginn-wang, brave wind and wave dauntlessly to ensure the safety of Taiwan’s fishing boats. Let me salute their courage!

As the old adage goes, “The craftsman who would do good work ought to start by looking after his tools.” Since I took office as president, one of my priorities has been to upgrade CGA equipment. We have allocated NT$24 billion to the building of new vessels, as well as upgrades—41 in total—to extend the usable life of ones already in service. This will enhance our law enforcement capabilities in the nation’s littoral waters. Eight new vessels (totaling 3,600 metric tons) have been delivered and another 10 (14,100 metric tons) will be commissioned by 2016. These will significantly improve our law enforcement capacity.

In the past, when the Navy defended our territorial integrity and the CGA enforced the law and protected our fishermen, their purpose was to ensure peace, security, and stability. This was very much in accord with the spirit of the East China Sea Peace Initiative. The Republic of China is a peace-loving nation, but our government will spare no effort to defend our national sovereignty and safeguard the security of our fishermen.

Earlier, I took part in a videoconference with the CGA’s Assignment Command Center and our command posts on the Pratas and Spratly Islands. When I saw our coast guard sailors guarding our territorial waters, I felt deeply touched and grateful. I hope that we can all devote ourselves to safeguarding national security and our people’s interests. I also hope that the concrete steps I have proposed today can become the starting point for future peace and cooperation in the East China Sea, so that this region with the fastest economic growth in the world continues to have a peaceful and prosperous future.

East China Sea Peace Initiative Implementation Guidelines

Facing rising concerns posed by the East China Sea situation, President Ma Ying-jeou proposed the East China Sea Peace Initiative on August 5, based on the principle of “safeguarding sovereignty, shelving disputes, pursuing peace and reciprocity, and promoting joint exploration and development.” He called upon all parties concerned to demonstrate restraint and avoid escalating confrontational acts, to shelve controversies and not abandon dialogue, to respect international law and deal with disputes through peaceful means, to seek consensus and draft a East China Sea Code of Conduct, and to establish a mechanism for cooperation on exploring and developing resources in the East China Sea.

These guidelines are proposed to enhance the effectiveness and impact of the East China Sea Peace Initiative.

I. Implementation
The East China Sea Peace Initiative is to be implemented in two stages:
1. Peaceful dialogue and mutually reciprocal negotiation
This stage involves promoting the idea of resolving the East China Sea dispute through peaceful means, and establishing channels for Track I and Track II dialogue and encouraging all parties concerned to address key East China Sea issues via bilateral or multilateral negotiation mechanisms in order to bolster mutual trust and collective benefit.

2. Sharing resources and cooperative development
This stage involves institutionalizing all forms of dialogue and negotiation and encouraging all parties concerned to implement substantive cooperative projects and establish mechanisms for joint exploration and development of resources that form a network of peace and cooperation in the East China Sea area.

II. Key issues
1. Fishing industry—Convening bilateral and multilateral fishing industry meetings and other forms of fishing industry cooperation and exchange, and establishing a mechanism for fishing industry cooperation and administration.
2. Mining industry—Promoting joint exploration in the territorial waters to the north of Taiwan and establishing a mechanism for joint exploration, development and management.
3. Marine science research and maritime environmental protection—Conducting multi-national marine and ecological research projects pertaining to the East China Sea.
4. Maritime security and unconventional security—Implementing bilateral and multilateral law enforcement exchanges and marine rescue agency cooperation, and establishing a collaborative marine security and crime-enforcement mechanism.
5. East China Sea Code of Conduct—Implementing mechanisms for Track I and Track II dialogue and negotiating mechanisms for resolving disputes through peaceful means that will bolster mutual trust and encourage all parties concerned to sign the East China Sea Code of Conduct.

III. Implementation Objectives
In its role as a facilitator of peace in the international community, the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) has proposed the East China Sea Peace Initiative and its implementation guidelines in the sincere hope that all parties concerned replace confrontation with negotiation, and set aside their controversies by means of temporary measures, so as to maintain peace and stability in the region. Over the long run, we can move from three parallel tracks of bilateral dialogue (between Taiwan and Japan, Taiwan and the Chinese mainland, and Japan and the mainland) to one track of trilateral negotiations and realize peace and cooperation in the East China Sea.


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