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September 23, 2017

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Ma's peace initiative 'sensible': ex-AIT director

WASHINGTON--President Ma Ying-jeou's peace initiative on the disputed Tiaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea is "sensible" and is "the only way out," a former U.S. official said on Friday.

Douglas Paal, former director of the American Institute in Taiwan's Taipei Office, said President Ma's idea of finding a way for the parties involved to share resources is new. "I happen to think that this is a sensible idea. I think that's the only way out. Because we are not going to solve the questions of sovereignty in the immediate future. We can find a solution to share the resources," Paal said.

From 2002 to 2006, Paal served as director of the AIT, the de-facto U.S. Embassy in Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic ties between the two nations.

Paal was referring to President Ma's East China Peace Initiative proposed on Aug. 5 which calls on all claimants to the disputed island chain to put aside differences, embark on peaceful dialogue and cooperate to develop the resources.

The Tiaoyutais are currently controlled by Japan, but are also claimed by Taiwan and China.

Paal said that the Japanese government has just announced a major personnel change, and that the new officials are all calm, responsible people who understand the background of the dispute and how to manage it.

"If we can get China (and Japan) to work together and trust each other, I think it will have calmer situation where we can work on the basis of agreements reached from 1970s and 1990s and how to avoid tension," he said.

He also said that China's attempt to block Taiwan from joining international organizations is outdated, and that there will be a possibility for growing international space for Taiwan, saying "its overdue."

His remarks came after Chinese President Hu Jintao promised to "seriously study" the possibility of helping Taiwan participate in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in an appropriate way when he met Taiwan's former Vice President Lien Chan Friday on the sidelines of the leaders' meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Vladivostok, Russia.

"We've always been disappointed there's not enough space for Taiwan," Paal said.

He added that Taiwan should be able to join such international organizations as the ICAO and United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it is closely watching the response of other nations to President Ma's peace initiative.

And legislator Lin Yu-fang of the ruling Kuomintang said the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, a U.S. think tank, spoke highly of Ma's initiative.

Lin, together with his legislative colleagues, is visiting the United States.

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