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April 26, 2017

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Taiwan echoes US call for calm in S. China Sea

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan has reiterated its sovereignty over disputed waters in the South China Sea, but also echoed the U.S. government's latest call on all claimants to exercise self-restraint to reduce tensions in the region.

Taiwan's reiteration follows U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Michael Fuchs' latest suggestion that all claimants to territorial rights in the region should "freeze" provocative actions.

Speaking at the U.S. Department of State's Annual South China Sea Conference, Fuchs said the claimants "could recommit not to establish new outposts" as agreed in the Declaration of Conduct (DoC) signed between ASEAN member states and China in 2002.

"More important, claimants could commit not to seize features that another claimant has occupied since before the November 2002 Declaration on Conduct was signed," said Fuchs.

"Construction and land reclamation by claimants have been another constant source of tension. Claimants could clarify what types of alterations are provocative and what are merely efforts to maintain a long-existing presence in accordance with the 2002 status quo," added Fuchs.

"Finally, claimants could agree to refrain from unilateral enforcement measures against other claimants' long-standing economic activities that have been taking place in disputed areas," he added.

"Exercising self-restraint via this type of voluntary freeze would create a conducive and positive environment for negotiations on a China-ASEAN Code of Conduct and dramatically lower the risk of a dangerous incident," the U.S. official stressed.

Tensions in the region have escalated with China stepping up actions to reiterate its sovereignty claims.

Apart from China and some ASEAN states, Taiwan also claims sovereignty over the disputed waters in the resources-rich area.

Anna Kao, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), responded to Fuchs' calls by stressing that the country's sovereignty in the region is "unquestionable."

But she urged all claimants to set aside their disputes, resorting to peaceful measures to jointly develop the area.

Taiwan calls on all sides to exercise self-restraint and engage in dialogues to peacefully resolve the South China Sea disputes and maintain regional stability, she said.

Philip Yang, an international relations scholar from Taiwan, noted that Taipei supports the DoC that ASEAN states and China signed in 2002.

He said the East China Sea Peace Initiative (ECSPI) that Taipei proposed in 2012 could be extended to help resolve the South China Sea disputes.

The ECSPI holds that all sides in the East China Sea disputes exercise restraint, reduce tensions and jointly work to develop the region peacefully for the common benefit of all parties involved.

The initiative asks all sides to shelve the sovereignty disputes, continue their mutual dialogue and communication, observe international law, search for a consensus, set a code of conduct in the region and create a body for jointly developing the resources in the area.

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