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June 25, 2017

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Ma's plan best in East China Sea rows: US scholar

TAIPEI -- The East China Sea Peace Initiative proposed by Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou has been the most sensible approach advanced to date to reduce the potential for conflict over territorial disputes in the region, a U.S. scholar has argued.

In his recent article "Taiwan and the Rising Tension in the East China Sea: A Mouse that Roared," Dennis Hickey examined Taiwan's policy toward the territorial dispute involving the Diaoyutai Islands, which are claimed by Taiwan, Japan and China.

The Diaoyutais, called the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China, lie about 100 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan. They have been under Japan's administrative control since 1972.

In August 2012, Taiwan proposed a diplomatic approach — the East China Sea Peace Initiative — that could conceivably shelve the issue if adopted, said Hickey, a professor in Missouri State University's Department of Political Science.

The proposal calls for all sides to shelve their differences and jointly explore and develop resources in the area. Sovereignty cannot be divided, but natural resources can be shared, Ma declared.

Ma later suggested that bilateral discussions first take place between the three parties involved (Taiwan, Japan and China) to nudge negotiations forward and set the stage for trilateral negotiations to eventually achieve an agreement based on the initiative.

Aside from the peace initiative, Taipei seems to be throwing its support behind activists who claim the island group belongs to the "Chinese people," seemingly inching closer to China on the issue, Hickey said in his article published in the latest issue of the journal Asian Survey.

Taiwan's government has repeated that the Diaoyutais are an inherent part of the Republic of China's territory, while stressing that Taipei will not cooperate with Beijing on the Diaoyutai row.

But during a recent interview with CNA in Taipei, Hickey said there was a perception that mainland China and Taiwan do share some parallel interests over the Diaoyutais.

Though China and Taiwan are not "openly cooperating," he said, an incident near the disputed islands involving a direct clash between Taiwan and Japan suggests some degree of mutual support.

In September 2012, a group of Taiwan's Coast Guard ships were sent to escort dozens of Taiwanese fishing boats into the Diaoyutais' territorial waters to assert ROC's territorial claims.

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