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Second Anniversary of East China Sea Peace Initiative

icon2014/08/05
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 A Commentary

 
Second Anniversary of East China Sea Peace Initiative
 
Edward Chen
 
Professor at Tamkang University's Graduate Institute of American Studies
 
Source: China Times
 
August 5, 2014
 
President Ma Ying-jeou proposed the East China Sea Peace Initiative on August 5, 2012.   Although President Ma’s East China Sea Peace Initiative drew attention in Japan, other countries, including the US, paid little notice.  However, later on, members of both Houses of the US Congress applauded Ma’s initiative.
 
Since August 2012, various developments have proven President Ma’s East China Sea Peace Initiative to be a far-sighted proposal.  Kōichirō Genba (玄葉光一郎), Japan’s Foreign Minister in 2012, publicly stated that he agreed with President Ma’s East China Sea Peace Initiative, particularly the proposal to shelve disputes and seek peace in the East China Sea.  By the time Kōichirō Genba expressed his views, Japan had already committed serious missteps as Yoshihiko Noda’s Cabinet had decided to nationalize the Diaoyutai Islands.
 
Japan’s decision to nationalize the Diaoyutai Islands amounted to opening Pandora’s box.  Since then, the East China Sea and the South China Sea had become the source of disputes among the Mainland, Japan, the US and the ROC.  Mainland China expanded its territorial baseline to the Diaoyutai Islands and declared the East China Sea as its Exclusive Economic Zone.
 
Furthermore, the Mainland declared an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on November 23, 2013.  At the end of 2013, the Mainland declared its intention to implement a new version of the South China Sea Fisheries Act, demanding that all vessels report to the Mainland when passing through the South China Sea, eliciting strong repercussions from the US, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
 
When the Mainland clashed with Vietnam over the waters surrounding the Paracel Islands, the US supported Vietnam and described Mainland China’s decision to dispatch an oil rig to the waters surrounding the Paracel Islands as a provocative action.  Relations between Vietnam and the US were elevated from economic and trade relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership.  
 
If Japan had shelved disputes and sought peace when President Ma proposed the East China Sea Peace Initiative, subsequent disputes over the Diaoyutai Islands would not have occurred.
 
Daniel Russel, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, testified in the Congress that he thought President Ma’s East China Sea Peace Initiative was rather consistent with US policy and strategy in East Asia.
 
Russel also agreed with President Ma’s proposal to shelve disputes and seek peaceful means to resolve disputes under international law because the US insisted on respecting international law and resolving disputes peacefully in both the East and South China Seas.
 
Russel always spoke of the East and South China Seas in the same breath during his testimony, therefore, when he praised President Ma’s East China Sea Peace Initiative, he might have hoped that President Ma would propose a South China Sea Peace Initiative at an appropriate time, in line with US policy in Asia.
 
President Ma had not proposed his East China Sea Peace Initiative in vain as it won acclaim from the US and had been incorporated as part of US policy in East Asia on the second anniversary of the East China Sea Peace Initiative.
 
【Editor’s note: On October 10th, 2012, President Ma stated that the East China Sea Peace Initiative also applied, mutatis mutandis, to the South China Sea. 】
 

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