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Ex-U.S. official lauds President Ma's peace initiatives

Ex-U.S. official lauds President Ma's peace initiatives

Taipei, Aug. 5 (CNA) A former U.S. State Department official lauded Wednesday the East China Sea and South China Sea peace initiatives proposed by President Ma Ying-jeou (???) aimed at seeking peaceful resolutions and reducing tension in the regions over competing territorial claims. The East China Sea peace initiative proposed in August 2012 has won recognition internationally, said Evans J.R. Revere, who served as principal deputy assistant secretary and acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs before retiring from the State Department in 2007. During an interview with CNA on the sidelines of the 2015 East Asian Maritime Peace Forum in Taipei, he noted that some senior U.S. officials have expressed support for the initiative, which also allowed Taiwan to sign a historic fishery agreement with Japan in April 2013. Five or 10 years ago, he said, such an agreement would have seemed impossible. "But it's happened. I think it's an important step forward," he added. Ma's East China Sea proposal calls on the parties concerned to seek peaceful solutions and joint development of resources to address disputes in the region. Among the disputed islands in the region are the Diaoyutais, which are located some 100 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan. They have been under Japan's administrative control since 1972 but are also claimed by Taiwan and China, which calls them the Diaoyu Islands. The fishery agreement allows both Taiwanese and Japanese fishermen to operate freely in a designated area in the waters where the two countries' exclusive economic zones overlap. The principles espoused in that agreement "could be used more broadly in dealing with other concerns and other issues," said Revere, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Center for East Asia Policy Studies. Noting the experience of the East China Sea peace initiative and the Taiwan-Japan fishery agreement, he said that the principles could also be applied to reduce tension in the South China Sea and contribute to peace and stability in the disputed region. Several countries, including Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, China and Vietnam, claim all or parts of the South China Sea. China has sparked tension in the region in recent months by unilaterally reclaiming islands in the South China Sea and using them to establish military facilities. In May, Ma called for putting aside differences and promoting the joint development of resources in a South China Sea peace initiative amid rising tension in the region. The issue of sovereignty "would be very difficult to resolve," Revere said, adding that it would be easier for the parties concerned to set aside the question of sovereignty, allowing them to talk about how they can cooperate on sharing resources in the region, such as gas, oil and fishing. One of the most valuable elements of the East China Sea peace initiative and the understanding that was reached between Taipei and Tokyo "is that neither side gave up anything in terms of their positions on sovereignty," and yet, they were able to reach a useful and helpful fishery agreement, Revere said. "It's really hard to fix the sovereignty issue and it may be impossible to fix the sovereignty issue. But why not work on other aspects of the problem in which there are some win-win solutions here?" he said. Speaking during a panel discussion at the forum earlier in the day, Revere also offered some suggestions for Taiwan in the face of growing tension in the South China Sea. He urged Taiwan to avoid any action and rhetoric that might escalate tension or add to "what is already a difficult and potentially dangerous situation." As Taiwan will hold its next presidential election in next January, he expressed hope that Taiwan will ensure that its South China Sea and East China Sea claims do not become part of the presidential campaign. He also suggested that Taiwan continue to reinforce the importance of resolving all existing disputes peacefully and according to international law, and to make clear Taiwan's own commitment to doing so. Meanwhile, Revere expressed hope that Taiwan will unambiguously state its commitment to freedom of navigation and overflight in the region. Ma also gave a speech at the forum, during which he called for all sides concerned to maintain freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea. Wednesday's forum brought together local and foreign experts and scholars, including some from Australia, France, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and the United States, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which organized the event in conjunction with the Taipei-based Prospect Foundation. The forum marked the third anniversary of the East China Sea peace initiative proposed by Ma Aug. 5, 2012. (By Elaine Hou)


Updated : 2021-09-20 23:42 GMT+08:00