U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently reiterated Washington's commitment to helping Taiwan defend itself under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) and also commended a peace initiative proposed by President Ma Ying-jeou to address territorial disputes in the region.
Consistent with the TRA, "we continue to make available defense articles and services to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability," Kerry said in a written statement in response to questions from the House Committee of Foreign Affairs.
The TRA was enacted in 1979 to maintain commercial, cultural and other unofficial ties between the U.S. and Taiwan after Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. The TRA also requires the U.S. "to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character."
In response to questions on maritime disputes in Asia, Kerry noted that the historic fishery agreement signed between Taiwan and Japan in 2013 can serve as a model for promoting regional stability despite conflicting maritime claims.
The existence of competing maritime claims "does not and should not preclude claimants from finding peaceful and effective ways to share and manage resources responsibly," he said.
"This principle, which is enunciated in the East China Sea Peace Initiative, is relevant across maritime Asia."
The peace initiative, proposed by President Ma in August 2012, paved the way for Taiwan and Japan to sign the fishery agreement to address fishing disputes in waters surrounding the disputed Diaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea.
Under the terms of the agreement, both Taiwanese and Japanese fishermen are allowed to operate freely in a designated area.
In light of the disputes over the islands in the resource-rich East China Sea region, the Ma proposal also advocated the principles of safeguarding sovereignty, shelving differences, seeking peace and reciprocity and pursuing joint exploration.
It called on all sides to shelve their differences and jointly explore and develop resources in the area.
The Diaoyutais, called the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China, lie about 100 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan. They have been under Japan's administrative control since 1972, but are also claimed by Taiwan and China.