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June 27, 2017

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Scholars back Ma's call for code of conduct in unstable sea

TAIPEI -- President Ma Ying-jeou's proposal to set up an East China Sea code of conduct was well received by local scholars on Wednesday, but they said the initiative can move forward only after a platform for multilateral dialogue is built.

Earlier Wednesday at an international regional security conference in Taipei, Ma urged all sides involved to address disputes through peaceful means to ensure regional stability and establish a code of conduct on the use of air space and waters in the East China Sea.

Ma also proposed that a multilateral negotiation mechanism be established in the region as soon as possible to address air defense identification zone (ADIZ) disputes, a move he said would promote cooperation and help achieve regional peace and prosperity.

His suggestions were seen as "rational" and "legal" approaches to solving disputes compared with resorting to force, said Alexander Huang, an assistant professor at Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies.

Major countries in Northeast Asia should find Ma's proposal acceptable as members of the international community do not want to see disputes resolved by the use of force, Huang told reporters.

The principles will also help Taiwan develop a more global role and push it forward in participating in multilateral negotiations in the future, he said.

Ho Szu-shen, the director of the Center for Japan Studies at Fu Jen Catholic University, argued, however, that the plan had a serious stumbling block: the lack of a multilateral dialogue platform for countries surrounding the East China Sea.

Unlike the South China Sea where there is a dialogue platform for international consultation, any initiatives for countries having maritime borders in the East China Sea would not be implemented if they were not able to reach consensus on key issues through a regular dialogue platform, Ho said.

In contrast, disputes in the South China Sea have been key topics of discussion at the ASEAN Regional Forum, an informal multilateral dialogue of 27 members that seeks to address security issues in the Asia-Pacific region.

The forum was established in 1994 as an annual ministerial-level meeting of members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to provide a setting for the development of cooperative responses to regional problems.

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