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Calm heads must prevail in islands row: ex-US official

The China Post--All countries involved in a recent row in the East China Sea should put aside sovereignty disputes to engage in rational dialogue for the benefit of all parties, a visiting former United States official said yesterday in Taipei.

“People should look at the issue (East China Sea row) not as a 19th-century sovereignty question ... rather it is an issue more of the 21st century,” Christopher Hill, former assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs under the U.S. State Department, said during an interview.

By declaring it a “21st century” issue, Hill said he was noting that the issue also involves the economic interests of all concerned parties as well as their rights to maritime passage.

Dealing with the issue solely from a sovereignty point of view is not feasible, he said, adding that it is better to try to break down the issue. He said it was important to calm peoples' emotions.

It is important to separate nationalism from the issue and avoid zero-sum thinking, Hill said, and focus instead on finding a “win-win” solution in a calm manner.

He said he has recently seen some hints of calm rationality prevailing but more needs to be done to prevent the issue from being mishandled.

Hill made the remarks when asked to comment on a recent row in the East China Sea over the disputed Diaoyutai Islands, which Japan calls the Senkaku Islands. Taiwan, China and Japan all lay claim to the island chain.

Hill, the incumbent dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, is visiting Taiwan on a six-day trip that is scheduled to conclude Monday.

The purpose of his visit is to gain a deeper understanding for a range of issues, including the development of Taiwan-U.S. and cross-Taiwan Strait relations.

Hill served as assistant secretary between 2005 and 2009. He has also served as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, South Korea and Poland.

Taiwan's Swift Power Seen in U.S.

During his visit, Hill also met with President Ma Ying-jeou and other government officials in the foreign ministry, the National Security Council and the Mainland Affairs Council.

Recalling his meeting with Ma Thursday, Hill said yesterday that he congratulated the president on his efforts to both improve cross-strait ties and enhance positive dialogue between Taipei and Washington.

He pointed out that Taiwan has emerged as a major cultural element in the U.S. in recent years.

He referred to Taiwanese-American NBA player Jeremy Lin and other Taiwan-native professional baseball players and golfers who are currently achieving fame and success in the U.S. He said their status was a very positive development for bilateral ties and a perfect platform to enhance U.S.- Taiwan relations.

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Christopher Hill, former assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs under the U.S. State Department, speaks to reporters during an interview in Taipei yesterday.

(CNA)

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