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July 26, 2017

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APEC backs Taiwan in S. China Sea pact: Lien

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia--Most members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum support Taiwan's participation in formulating the South China Sea Code of Conduct, Taiwan's envoy to the annual APEC leadership meeting said Sunday.

Former Vice President Lien Chan, who attended the 2012 APEC summit on behalf of President Ma Ying-jeou, said he has held formal and informal bilateral talks with top leaders of APEC member economies over the past two days.

"Many of them agreed that Taiwan should not be excluded while formulating the South China Sea Code of Conduct," Lien said at a news conference at the conclusion of the two-day APEC summit in the far eastern Russian seaport of Vladivostok.

Most countries also expressed the hope that there would be no further delay in addressing the South China Sea territorial dispute, Lien said.

Six countries — Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei — claim all or part of the South China Sea and its island chains.

As Taiwan controls the Pratas — the largest South China Sea island group known locally as the Dongsha Islands — and Taiping, the largest of the Spratly Islands, Lien said it would lead to nowhere if Taiwan is excluded from Code of Conduct negotiations for the region.

After discussing relevant topics with ASEAN member states on the sidelines of the APEC summit, Lien said most of them support his stance that Taiwan should be included in South China Sea talks.

China and the 10 ASEAN member states issued a declaration in Phnom Penh, Cambodia Nov. 4, 2002, expressing their willingness to work out a code of conduct to settle the South China Sea dispute. The goal has so far not yet been substantiated.

During the press conference, Lien also revealed that Taiwanese and Japanese delegations to the annual APEC meeting have discussed fishery cooperation issues during their bilateral talks.

Both Japanese and Chinese leaders declared their countries' stances on the disputed Tiaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea at an APEC summit joint press conference Saturday.

Lien refrained from commenting on those two countries' moves, but he stressed that the Tiaoyutai sovereignty dispute was brought up in his bilateral talks with relevant parties.

Sources familiar with the matter said the Tiaoyutai issue was high on the agenda of Taiwan's bilateral talks with Japan and the United States on the sidelines of the APEC summit.

Located some 100 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan, the Tiaoyutais have been under Japanese control since 1972, but are also claimed by Taiwan and China.

Lien said the "East China Sea Peace Initiative" broached by President Ma Aug. 5 is a feasible approach to deal with the Tiaoyutai dispute.

The initiative calls for all parties concerned to exercise self-restraint, shelve differences, pursue peace and reciprocity, and cooperate in exploring resources in the region.

While relevant parties have not responded to the initiative, Lien said, they suggested that all parties start with cooperation in exploring or developing fishery resources in the region.

This is the fifth year that Lien represented Ma at the annual leadership meeting of the 21-member APEC forum.

Lien said his bilateral talks with top leaders of APEC member economies, including the U.S., China, Japan, Russia and major ASEAN member states, were very fruitful.

"All of them have shown keen interest in expanding cooperation with our country in various fields," Lien added.

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