admin April 14, 2016

President Ma Ying-jeou called for peaceful resolution of South China Sea disputes through negotiations April 14, urging proper recognition of Taiping Island’s status as an island based on fact and international law.

“Whether from the perspective of history, geography or international law, the Nansha [Spratly], Shisha [Paracel], Chungsha [Macclesfield Bank] and Tungsha [Pratas] islands, as well as their surrounding waters, are an inherent part of the nation’s territory,” Ma said. “They were first discovered, named and incorporated into national territory during dynastic Chinese rule, and returned by Japan to the ROC after the end of World War II.

“It is indisputable that the nation enjoys all rights over these islands and waters accordingly,” he added. “The government is seeking a viable path to advocate regional development in accordance with the principles of safeguarding sovereignty, shelving disputes, pursuing peace and reciprocity and promoting joint development.”

Ma made the remarks during his keynote speech for an international conference on South China Sea issues in Taipei City. He highlighted the Nansha’s significance to the nation’s territorial integrity while reaffirming the government’s stance on solving related disputes through negotiations.

Efforts in this regard are illustrated by the East China Sea Peace Initiative proposed by the president in 2012. This helped pave the way for the signing of the landmark Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement the next year.

“This was achieved by replacing confrontation with dialogue, and shelving territorial disputes through negotiations,” Ma said. “Building on the success of such a pragmatic approach, I proposed the South China Sea Peace Initiative in 2015, which saw equally positive results in reaching an agreement on facilitating bilateral cooperation in fisheries law enforcement between Taiwan and the Philippines last November.”

But recent sovereignty claims by other parties regarding Taiping Island-situated 1,600 kilometers south of Kaohsiung City in southern Taiwan, and the largest naturally formed island in the Nansha chain-have made the region one of international concern.

“Taiping Island boasts freshwater, human habitation, has an economic life and fully meets the definition of an island as laid out in Article 121 of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea,” he said, describing claims that it is a rock by the Philippines government in an international arbitration tribunal as groundless and without merit.

The president cited Taiping Island’s rich natural resources and infrastructure as proof, and called on the global community to formally recognize its status as an island.

“After my Jan. 28 trip to Taiping Island, there are already 425 media reports worldwide on these indisputable facts, and the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague has taken notice of this matter as well,” he said. “It shows that our position is gaining traction throughout international society.”

Ma urged The Hague to determine the matter based on facts and UNCLOS, without compromising the nation’s maritime rights. He added that peaceful resolution of the disputes will further the government’s efforts in turning Taiping Island into an ecologically friendly and low-carbon island, as well as a regional base for peace and rescue operations.

According to the president, Taiping Island is an ideal starting point for implementing his South China Sea Peace Initiative roadmap.

“In the spirit of shelving disputes, integrated planning and zonal development for the South China Sea, we are saying yes to cooperation and no to confrontation,” Ma said. “We are also saying yes to sharing and no to monopolizing, and yes to pragmatism and no to intransigence.

“The nation will continue playing its role as a responsible member of international society, strengthening its peacemaking and humanitarian efforts,” he added. “We look forward to establishing a negotiation and collaboration mechanism with all interested parties to make the South China Sea a sea of peace and cooperation.”

Source: Taiwan Today