Go TO Content

President Ma attends 2013 East China Sea Peace Forum

On the morning of August 5, President Ma Ying-jeou attended the opening ceremonies of the 2013 East China Sea Peace Forum, where he delivered an address stressing that the ROC will continue to play the role of a "responsible stakeholder" and "peacemaker." He said the nation will seek to establish institutionalized dialogue mechanisms with other parties to the East China Sea in the hope of transforming the area into a sea of "peace and cooperation." The president further noted that Taiwan hopes to apply this same spirit and method to address disputes in the South China Sea and other areas, working together with others to create a new era of peace and shared prosperity.

In his prepared remarks, President Ma stated that in September 2012 Japan announced that it was nationalizing the Diaoyutai Islets, thus reigniting the sovereignty dispute over the islets and escalating tensions in the East China Sea. It was against this backdrop, he said, that he decided on August 5 last year to unveil his East China Sea Peace Initiative, and today marks the one-year anniversary of this policy. The president pointed out that the forum would be devoted to topics related to the East China Sea, including the sharing of marine resources, cooperation in maritime security, and non-traditional security issues. Over 20 internationally renowned scholars and experts from the United States, Europe, mainland China, Japan, Korea, Australia, and Southeast Asia were invited to attend the conference, he stated, adding that this day also marked the 61st anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty of Peace between the Republic of China and Japan, making this conference all the more meaningful.

The president commented that the government's peace initiative is in line with the core interests of all countries involved. Peace and stability in the East China Sea, he said, will benefit nations bordering the sea and the region as a whole. The basic principle of the initiative, according to President Ma, is that "although sovereignty over national territory cannot be compromised, natural resources can be shared." If, he said, all parties can reach a consensus to shelve the sovereignty dispute, and instead engage in discussions on the feasibility of joint development in the spirit of peace and cooperation, the goal of joint sharing of resources could gradually be achieved. President Ma remarked that the Asia-Pacific region has become the world's engine of economic growth, accounting for 54.9% of the world's GDP and 47.1% of its trade volume. In addition, he pointed out, mainland China and Japan are the world's second and third largest economies, respectively, and thus occupy an important position in the world economy. Last year's conflict in the East China Sea dealt a serious blow to trade, investment, and tourism between mainland China and Japan, causing both sides to pay quite a price, the president said.

President Ma mentioned that Europe once faced a sovereignty dispute among various nations over the oil fields in the North Sea. However, all parties engaged in peaceful negotiation and international litigation to settle the issue by defining clear borders. Consequently, all parties were able to jointly develop and share the resources of the area, and Brent Crude became one of the most important petroleum trading classifications in the world, he said. This success highlights the benefits of peaceful dispute resolution and sharing of resources, and provides a vital point of reference regarding how to resolve the dispute in the East China Sea. At the same time, he noted, the European Union (EU) has promoted its "Integrated Maritime Policy" in recent years, striving to promote sustainable development for the sake of the environment, the economy, and society. The EU's comprehensive management of and appropriate utilization of the maritime environment and marine resources are worthy of study too, he said.

The president stated that since taking office in 2008 he has significantly improved cross-strait relations. Taiwan and mainland China have signed 19 agreements and reached two points of consensus, which have yielded substantive benefits in many areas. For instance, the president stated, there are 86 scheduled flights between the two sides each day, and each year some 8 million people travel across the Taiwan Strait, which shows that cross-strait relations are at their most stable and peaceful state in 60 years. The East China Sea Peace Initiative can thus help lay the foundation for continued development of peace between the two sides, he added.

President Ma further stated that the East China Sea Peace Initiative is based on the principle of "provisional measures" as set forth in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). He noted that the initiative has received considerable attention since it was first announced, articles on the initiative came to over 220 in international publications and over 1,800 in local media, and the Japanese government has also attached great importance to it. The president said this shows that the international community broadly supports Taiwan's intention to address disputes in a peaceful manner and its advocacy of joint development of resources.

Commenting on relations between Taiwan and Japan, President Ma stated that Taiwan and Japan embarked on a new round of fishing negotiations last November and on April 10 of this year signed a fisheries agreement, thereby resolving a 40-year dispute. The agreement enables fishermen from the two countries to operate in an area double the size of Taiwan without being bound by the laws of the other, he said. Consequently, Taiwanese fishermen will no longer face restrictions in traditional fishing grounds that they have used for the past 100 years, he noted. President Ma explained that this agreement does not prejudice the right of either side to press claims under the UNCLOS because this convention includes a without prejudice clause which provides that the content of the convention is without prejudice to the sovereignty claims of either side or to either side's claim to various waters. Therefore, said President Ma, the government has not "sacrificed sovereignty in exchange for fishing rights." He also remarked that the agreement is in line with the spirit of the East China Sea Peace Initiative. This is the first instance in which the initiative has been acted upon in a substantive manner, and it helps to establish order in fishing operations in the East China Sea, the president commented.

President Ma also explained that Taiwan's advocacy of "shelving sovereignty disputes" is not tantamount to "shelving sovereignty." All sides can still claim sovereignty over various areas, but what is most important is that the parties involved first decide to temporarily shelve the disputes and instead focus on the cooperative development of resources, he stated. In addition, the president said, a new Taiwan-Japan fisheries committee, an institutionalized negotiation platform provided for under the agreement, will continue to discuss sovereignty issues with Japan, as well as issues related to sovereignty and fishing operations in other seas.

The president also mentioned that the EU, the United States, and Canada in May of this year jointly released the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation, which provides for the establishment of an Atlantic Ocean research alliance and calls on all three sides to strengthen the sharing of information about the Atlantic and develop measures to provide for sustainable management of resources in the ocean. President Ma said that this also shows that these nations have reached a consensus to shelve sovereignty disputes and instead embrace a spirit of peace and cooperation in exploring the feasibility of joint development. This ultimately could also enable the parties involved to reach the objective of the sharing of resources, he said.

The president reiterated that the East China Sea Peace Initiative calls for the three parties to the dispute to hold separate bilateral dialogue to start with. After talks between Taiwan and Japan, Taiwan and mainland China, and Japan and mainland China have yielded a consensus on various issues, the parties could move to trilateral negotiations, he said. In fact, said President Ma, the signing of a fisheries agreement between Taiwan and Japan has yielded concrete results, and could be seen as fitting within this framework.

President Ma also touched on fishery negotiations between Taiwan and the Philippines. He stated that the two countries in this June already held the first preparatory meeting for the negotiations, and an agreement has been reached that military force will absolutely not be used to handle disputes. The president explained that the two sides have agreed to notify the other immediately of any dispute, thus reducing the risk of the dispute from escalating. He expressed confidence that there will be no recurrence of a previous incident in which a Taiwanese fisherman was shot and killed by a Philippine government vessel in overlapping economic waters.

The president stressed that although the East China Sea Peace Initiative features the "East China Sea," the principles set forth in the initiative can be applied to other areas. In fact, he said, the ROC government also has sovereignty claims in the South China Sea and the situation there is far more complicated than in the East China Sea, so the government will not rule out using a framework similar to that of the East China Sea Peace Initiative in addressing the dispute in the South China Sea. President Ma stated that after international law made its way to East Asia in the 19th century, many concepts and measures were gradually accepted and internalized by nations bordering the East China Sea. He said the ROC hopes to first forge peace between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and then expand this push to the East China Sea and the South China Sea, gradually transforming these areas into seas of peace and cooperation. He concluded his remarks by saying that the ROC will, in this new era, continue to play the role of a "responsible stakeholder" and "peacemaker."

Among those attending the forum were Senior Advisor to the President Ding Mou-Shih (丁懋時), Secretary-General to the President Timothy Chin-Tien Yang (楊進添), National Security Council Secretary-General Jason C. Yuan (袁健生), Minister of Foreign Affairs David Y. L. Lin (林永樂), National Security Bureau Director General Tsai De-sheng (蔡得勝), Prospect Foundation Chairman Louis W. H. Tzen (鄭文華), Korean Mission in Taipei Representative Chung Sang-Ki, Australian Office Taipei Representative Robert Kevin Magee, and New Zealand Commerce and Industry Office Deputy Director Serena Chui.

【Source: Office of the President】