Taiwan Proposes Peace Initiative Over Island Row

5 Aug

TAIPEI: Taiwan presented a peace proposal aimed at easing mounting tensions in a territorial dispute over an island chain in the East China Sea also claimed by China and Japan.

The proposal, put forth by President Ma Ying-jeou on Sunday, came after Japanese Defence Minister Satoshi Morimoto warned Tokyo could send troops to the island chain, known as Senkaku in Japan, Diaoyu in China and Diaoyutai in Taiwan.

“The recent rise of tensions due to the Diaoyutai dispute has the potential to jeopardise peace and stability in East Asia,” Ma said as Taiwan marked the anniversary of a peace treaty signed between Japan and then Kuomintang government led by Chiang Kai-shek following Japan’s defeat at the end of World War II.

“Peace and prosperity in the region have not come easily, and the Republic of China never again wants to see a catastrophe such as the Second Sino-Japanese War happen here,” he said, using Taiwan’s official name.

The Kuomintang government fled the mainland to Taiwan in 1949 at the end of a civil war, and now Taiwan also claims the islands and local activists have tried to sail to the disputed area to press Taipei’s claim.

Last month, coastguard vessels from Taiwan and Japan “bumped into” each other in waters near the disputed island chain, as the Taiwanese vessel was escorting activists to the area.

While renewing Taiwan’s territorial claim, Ma urged all parties to exercise self-restraint, shelve controversies and use peaceful means to solve the long-standing dispute.

“Reaching a consensus on a code of conduct in the East China Sea, and on establishing a mechanism for cooperation on exploring and developing resources in the East China Sea, would help ensure peace in this region,” he said.

Tensions between Beijing and Tokyo rose last month after Chinese vessels twice entered waters near the resource-rich islands.

Japan lodged two formal complaints with Beijing and summoned the Chinese ambassador in protest.

The uninhabited outcrops were the scene of a particularly nasty spat in late 2010 when Japan arrested a Chinese trawlerman who had rammed two of its coastguard vessels.

Tensions spiked in April after controversial Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara called for Tokyo to buy the islands from their Japanese owner.

Japan’s prime minister has said the central government was also considering buying the island chain, sparking an angry response from Beijing.

– AFP/ck

Channel News Asia

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