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September 26, 2017

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Ex-AIT head says Beijing may not accept 3-way dialogue

TAIPEI -- Beijing might not want Taipei as an equal party in three-way talks if such discussions are held to address disputes in the East China Sea, a former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said yesterday.

Trilateral talks involving China, Taiwan and Japan on East China Sea issues are "in principle a good idea," said Richard Bush, who is in Taipei to launch the Chinese edition of his book, titled "The Perils of Proximity: China-Japan Security Relations."

On Sept. 7, President Ma Ying-jeou called for a trilateral dialogue among China, Japan and Taiwan to resolve the East China Sea dispute peacefully after the countries have conducted three parallel tracks of bilateral dialogue.

However, Bush said that China might not want Taiwan to be an equal party in such talks.

"Beijing probably would rather have Taipei under the table rather than at the table," said Bush.

To work around this issue, Bush said, the three sets of bilateral talks between Taiwan, China and Japan could replace a three-party discussion to address conflicting territorial disputes.

He also suggested that the "countries concerned" could follow the example of Taiwan in cross-Taiwan Strait relations, by starting with the "easy things" before moving toward the more difficult issues.

Recent territorial disputes over the Tiaoyutai Islands in the resource-rich East China Sea region have strained relations between Japan, Taiwan and China, all of which claim sovereignty over the uninhabited islands.

The Japanese government signed a contract a day earlier to purchase three of the islands from their private owners, a move that has infuriated both China and Taiwan, which have voiced strong protests.

Bush's book examines the rivalry between Japan and China and evaluates the chances of armed conflict between the two powers, as well as steps that could be taken to prevent such an outcome.

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