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President Ma's remarks at ROC (Taiwan)-US-Japan Trilateral Security Dialogue

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. David Y. L. Lin (林永樂);
Distinguished guests,
Government colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen;
Good morning!
I’m very pleased to be here today for the opening ceremony of the 2015 ROC-US-Japan Trilateral Security Dialogue, jointly hosted by the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies, the Heritage Foundation of the United States, and the Japan Institute of International Affairs.
This marks the fifth year in a row that distinguished parliamentarians, scholars, and senior government officials from various countries have gathered in Taipei to examine traditional and non-traditional security issues of common concern. I am confident that today’s discussions will enhance mutual trust and cooperation between the Republic of China, the United States, Japan, and other countries in the region.
Let me first deal with the ROC’s foreign and cross-strait relations in general.
I. For the past seven years, my administration has promoted viable diplomacy and peaceful cross-strait development
When I first became president back in May of 2008, I set out to create a prosperous and free Taiwan, peace in the Taiwan Strait, and friendly international relations; uphold the principles of dignity, autonomy, pragmatism, and flexibility; and promote a policy of viable diplomacy.
And over the past seven years, we have indeed forged a virtuous cycle in both foreign relations and cross-strait relations. This has created a peace dividend with global benefits, and a “win-win-win” situation for the Republic of China, cross-strait relations, and the international community.
Prior to 2008, the ROC’s relationship with mainland China had long been marked by tension and confrontation, with both sides competing for diplomatic allies in the international community. International support for Taiwan was declining. Our diplomatic allies dwindled, and our international image was tarnished. Cross-strait relations and foreign relations were both mired in a vicious cycle. But fortunately, those negative circumstances gave birth to a new policy to guide our foreign affairs, that is, viable diplomacy.
The viable diplomacy policy is based on the principles of pragmatism, dignity, autonomy, and flexibility, so foreign affairs are conducted with professionalism and integrity. That policy has allowed us to promote cross-strait reconciliation based on the 1992 Consensus, that is, “One China, respective interpretations,” and expand the ROC’s international space. So by adopting a completely new way of thinking about both cross-strait and foreign relations, we also found a whole new modus vivendus. This new way of doing things benefits both sides of the Taiwan Strait, and has been welcomed by the international community, creating a virtuous cycle.
The Republic of China’s viable diplomacy policy also brought an end to an era of “scorched-earth diplomacy,” and “checkbook diplomacy.” Instead, we use “above-board diplomacy,” emphasizing that our purpose must be legitimate, the process must be lawful, and the implementation must be effective. So over the past seven years, the ROC’s international image has gone from “troublemaker” to “peacemaker,” and in the international community, the ROC has become an asset, rather than a liability.
Now, let me talk about the ROC’s relations with the U.S. and Japan.
II. Over the past seven years, ROC-US and ROC-Japan relations show vast improvement
During my term of office—actually, two terms—I have done my best to strengthen our partnerships with the US and Japan.
The Republic of China, the United States, and Japan have long shared a commitment to the universal values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Over the past seven years, our viable diplomacy policy has fostered better relations with both the US and Japan, so we are closer than ever before, and mutual trust has never been stronger.
Before I took office, the Republic of China government sometimes acted rashly in foreign affairs, which had a negative impact on ROC-US relations. To re-establish that relationship, our first task was to restore trust at the highest levels of government.
Our approach was simple: a sincere, low-key, principled, and surprise-free attitude. So after seven years of close communication, mutual trust at the highest levels is better than it has ever been in more than three decades, and we continue to develop even closer cooperation in many areas.
On the economics and trade front, last year the United States was our second-largest trade partner, and the ROC moved ahead of Saudi Arabia and India to become one of America’s 10 biggest trade partners. Looking ahead, we hope to use our Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) of 1994 with the United States to promote even closer economic cooperation. We also hope that the US will continue to support Taiwan’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
We are also collaborating more on security issues with the United States than we ever have in the last 36 years since the Taiwan Relations Act was passed. US arms sales to Taiwan also exceeded 18.3 billion US dollars over the past seven years, more than in any comparable period since 1979 in terms of both total amount and frequency.
At a Senate hearing, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter reaffirmed that the US will continue to fulfill its obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act, providing a security guarantee by maintaining the ROC’s self-defense capabilities. In April of this year, the US Secretary of State John Kerry stated that Taiwan is an important security and economic partner of the United States, and plays a key role in America’s rebalance towards the Asia-Pacific region, reaffirming Taiwan’s geographical and strategic importance. Last month, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Susan Thornton, also emphasized that Taiwan is not only a vital US partner, but a vital regional partner. These statements all confirm that the US is very positive about the current state of ROC-US relations.
Now, let us turn to Japan.
Since 2008, we have also seen significant progress in ROC-Japan relations. Designated as a “special partnership,” the ROC and Japan have signed 25 agreements over the last seven years, including a youth working holiday agreement, a Taiwan-Japan Bilateral Investment Arrangement (BIA), and a fisheries agreement, as well as customs, e-commerce, patent, and open skies agreements. Of the 58 agreements signed between the Republic of China and Japan over the past 60 years, 43% of them were signed over the past seven years.
Japan’s leaders have publicly affirmed the strength and stability of the ROC-Japan relationship. On July 29 of this year, while responding to an interpolation in the House of Councillors, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that “Taiwan is an important partner of Japan that shares basic values with us,” and that “Taiwan is a friend that Japan should cherish.”
In April of 2013 the Republic of China and Japan signed a fisheries agreement, which was a concrete result of the East China Sea Peace Initiative that I proposed in August of 2012. The signing of that agreement resolved a long-standing issue over fishing rights in the waters surrounding the Diaoyutai Islands , which the Japanese call the “Senkaku Islands,” removing an impediment to bilateral relations by bringing a 40-year dispute to a swift close. Fishing vessels from both countries can now operate unimpeded in the 70,000 square kilometers of maritime waters covered by the agreement. This is a typical “provisional arrangement with a practical nature” as stipulated in Article 74 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea(UNCLOS).
Japan is also the ROC’s third-largest trade partner, while we are their fourth-largest. The Taiwan-Japan Bilateral Investment Arrangement that was signed in 2011—first time in 60 years—expanded bilateral trade, economic, and investment relations. ROC-Japan negotiations on an agreement to avoid double taxation were also recently completed, creating a more business-friendly environment.
People-to-people interaction between Taiwan and Japan has also increased considerably, and to meet the increased demand for flights, an open skies agreement was signed in November of 2011 that lifts the restrictions on routes and number of flights in all airports except those two airports in Tokyo. In 2014, bilateral ROC-Japan tourism reached 4.6 million discrete visits, including 2.97 million ROC nationals who visited Japan and 1.63 million Japanese visitors to Taiwan; both were the highest figures in history. The visitors from Taiwan have become the largest group among all foreign visitors in Japan.
Now, let me turn to the question of regional peace and stability in East Asia.
III. The East China Sea & South China Sea Peace Initiatives
As tension continued to build between Japan and mainland China as Japan nationalized the Diayutai Islands in 2012, in August of that year I proposed the East China Sea Peace Initiative, emphasizing the idea that although sovereignty cannot be compromised, resources can be shared, and calling on all relevant parties to resolve disputes through peaceful means. These same ideas can also be found in the fisheries agreement that the ROC and Japan signed in April of 2013, resolving a 40-year old dispute, and gaining significant fishing rights while ceding absolutely nothing in terms of sovereignty. The key to the critical success is a “without prejudice” clause in Article 4 of that Agreement that keeps intact the territorial claims of the two sides of the dispute. That means the claims are still there, but the dispute is shelved.
To extend the successes of the East China Sea Peace Initiative, on May 26 of this year I formally proposed the South China Sea Peace Initiative. I was hoping to alleviate tensions that were building there, and bring disputes in the South China Sea to a peaceful resolution. On June 12 of this year, in my capacity as President of the Republic of China (Taiwan), I published an open editorial in the Wall Street Journal explaining the South China Sea Peace Initiative. These efforts were all designed to establish the Republic of China as a constructive peacemaker, and responsible stakeholder in the international community.
In light of the continuing escalation of tensions in the South China Sea over the past few months, I must emphasize once again: The ROC has always sought to handle international affairs in accordance with international law. We are well aware that in order to resolve the current tensions in the South China Sea, all parties involved must resolve to act pragmatically and to pursue peace.
On one hand, the ROC government’s basic position regarding the South China Sea will not change. Whether from a historical or geographical standpoint, or from the perspective of international law—the Nansha (Spratly) Islands, Shisha (Paracel) Islands, Chungsha Islands (Macclesfield Bank), and Tungsha (Pratas) Islands, as well as their surrounding waters, are inherently ROC territory and surrounding waters. The ROC’s rights, pursuant to international law, are indisputable.
But at the same time, to resolve the existing disputes pragmatically and peacefully, and minimize the possibility of conflict, we also urge the relevant parties to shelve sovereignty disputes and negotiate the sharing of resources according to international law to avoid armed conflict.
Therefore, our proposed South China Sea Peace Initiative is a call for all parties concerned to exercise self-restraint and refrain from taking any unilateral action that might escalate tensions; to respect the principles and spirit of relevant international law, including the Charter of the United Nations and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), peacefully settle disputes, and jointly uphold the freedom and safety of navigation and overflight through the South China Sea.
We also hope that all parties concerned are included in the mechanisms or measures that enhance peace and prosperity in the South China Sea; shelve sovereignty disputes and establish a regional cooperation mechanism for the zonal development of resources in the South China Sea; and set up coordination and cooperation mechanisms for such nontraditional security issues as environmental protection, scientific research, maritime crime fighting, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
The Republic of China is willing to work with all parties concerned to implement the content and spirit of the South China Sea Peace Initiative in order to resolve disputes and jointly develop resources, thereby making the South China Sea a “Sea of Peace and Cooperation” similar to the East China Sea.
IV. Conclusion
Now, let’s look at what the future holds.
First, we will be stepping up our efforts to strengthen ROC-US and ROC-Japan relations. Over the past seven years, we have done everything in our power to uphold the cross-strait status quo, which means: no unification, no independence, and no use of force, under the framework of the Republic of China Constitution, and promote cross-strait peaceful development based on the 1992 Consensus, whereby each side insists on the "one China" principle, but maintains its own interpretation of what that means.
The two sides of the Taiwan Strait have currently signed 21 agreements. Actually, today we are signing the 22nd and 23rd agreements in Fujian, and you could honestly say that over the past 60 years, cross-strait relations have never been better. And stable cross-strait relations help create a good environment for cooperation with the US, Japan, and other countries in the region.
Recently, the chairperson of the largest of Taiwan’s opposition parties has stated that if she is elected president, she will “maintain the status quo.” But no one knows whether the “status quo” she’s talking about is the status quo of peace and stability that we have created and experienced for the past seven years. Or is she talking about the status quo that preceded my administration, in which there was no cross-strait foundation of mutual trust, and the “status quo” consisted of Taiwan perceived by the international community as a “troublemaker?” So, I certainly hope the status quo is the former rather than the latter.
Second, continuing trade relations are the key—the pillar—of ROC relations with the US and Japan. Participation in the TPP can enhance our competitiveness in the international arena, and increase economic benefits for the ROC, the US, Japan, and the other TPP signatories. As a result, the ROC will thus be able to make an even bigger contribution to regional growth and prosperity.
Third, we hope that the relevant regional parties, whether in the East China Sea or the South China Sea, will all exercise self-restraint and refrain from taking any unilateral action that might escalate tensions, and cooperate with each other based on the idea that although sovereignty cannot be compromised, resources can be shared.
Finally—and this is most important: The Republic of China is now prepared to take on a more important international role. In the past, we have already cooperated with the US on many non-traditional security issues. There are many examples, including the Pacific Islands Leadership Program, the International Environmental Partnership program, collaborative efforts to combat the Ebola virus and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), a shipping container security initiative, joint efforts to fight piracy on the high seas, humanitarian aid programs, disaster relief, and energy security measures. We hope to continue to expand our spirit of cooperation, and play a more active role on the global stage.
In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly back in 1963, the late US President Lyndon Johnson said, “Peace is a journey of a thousand miles, and it must be taken one step at a time.”
As history has shown, the Republic of China government has continuously advanced along the path to peace and prosperity. And I sincerely hope that we can preserve the accomplishments for which we worked so hard, and that the Asia-Pacific Region will continue to enjoy peace and stability.
Last but not least, I hope that today’s dialogue will bring about greater mutual understanding and respect, and ultimately benefit all of you, and your country.
Thank you very much!
【Source: Office of the President】