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May 29, 2017

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Taiwan, Japan set the example for solving territorial rows: Paal

TAIPEI -- Taiwan and Japan have set a good example of addressing territorial disputes in peaceful ways, a former director of the Taipei Office of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said Tuesday.

Douglas Paal, who is in Taipei to participate in the East China Sea Peace Forum, said that the East China Sea Peace Initiative proposed by President Ma Ying-jeou "is a positive thing" that tries to find solutions to the frictions among countries in the region.

The idea of the peace initiative is to "protect your sovereignty and still share resources," he told the media on the sidelines of the forum. "I think Japan and Taiwan have set a very good example for the rest of the region."

Cooperation of Resources

"It will be very helpful if we can shift the emphasis from contention and friction over resources to cooperation of resources," he said.

Paal, who was scheduled to deliver a keynote speech at the forum, also noted the rising tensions and growing nationalism in Asia, saying that now is an important moment to change the emphasis from friction to resource sharing and economic growth.

On the issue of Taiwan U.S. ties, he said the basic purpose of the long-standing bilateral relationship is to "make sure that Taiwan has adequate defenses so that they can be a force for stability."

"Weakness breeds instability and a weak Taiwan could be a source of tension and instability in the region," he said. He thinks that the U.S. will remain highly committed to providing Taiwan with adequate defense services and equipment to maintain an effective deterrence against attack.

"I don't think that will change despite the ins and outs of the rebalance strategy toward China," he said, adding that Washington wants Beijing to understand that it will retain its presence and role in East Asia even as China develops its own new capability.

Asked about tension between China and Japan over the disputed Diaoyutai Islands, Paal said he hopes a meeting between the leaders of the two countries will be able to take place during this year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation's Economic Leaders Meeting in Beijing in November.

President Ma proposed the East China Sea Peace Initiative in August 2012 to address disputes over the Diaoyutais, also known as the Diaoyu Islands in China and the Senkaku Islands in Japan.

The island group has been under Japan's administrative control since 1972, but they are also claimed by Taiwan and China.

Peace Initiative

The peace initiative calls for parties concerned to shelve differences and jointly explore resources.

After Ma proposed the initiative, Taiwan has taken a similar approach to dealing with fishing disputes with the Philippines, with both countries negotiating an agreement on cooperation in maritime law enforcement in their overlapping economic waters.

Last April, Taiwan and Japan also signed a historic fishery agreement that allows fishermen from both countries to operate in a designated area of their overlapping economic waters in the East China Sea to resolve long-standing disputes.

Organized by the Taipei-based Prospect Foundation to mark the second anniversary of Ma's peace initiative, Tuesday's forum brought together nearly two dozen local and foreign scholars to discuss cooperation, regional conflict prevention, economic integration, and the future prospects of the East China Sea Peace Initiative.

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