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Ma's South China Sea road map for peace makes sense for Taiwan: report

Ma's South China Sea road map for peace makes sense for Taiwan: report

Washington, Jan. 29 (CNA) The road map for peace in the South China Sea proposed by President Ma Ying-jeou shows a clear logic for Taiwan, and if adopted, would be in Taipei's interests and would help Taipei get a seat at an international negotiations table to resolve regional disputes, the Tokyo-based Diplomat Magazine has reported.

In a report published Friday on Ma's recent visit this week to the Taiwan-controlled Taiping Island, also known as Itu Aba, the magazine said that Ma used the bulk of his speech during the Thursday visit to emphasize his road map for fostering peace and stability in the disputed areas of the South China Sea.

The road map calls for establishing a "cooperation and development mechanism" with "equal participation and resource sharing among all parties concerned in the region."

The mechanism is based on all parties agreeing to shelve their sovereignty disputes, "not giving up their claims, but not actively pursuing them," the Diplomat report said.

Commenting on Taiwan's road map, the report said "the logic here for Taiwan is clear."

"With solid control over Itu Aba and no real interest in actively expanding its control over the other features it claims, a shelving of all the disputes is in Taipei's interests (by contrast, Beijing, which controls fewer features than rival claimants Vietnam and the Philippines, may have less interest in shelving disputes)," it reported.

The road map would also grant Taipei a seat at an international table to resolve regional issues, which the report described as "something very rare and precious" for Taiwan.

During his visit, Ma said Taiwan would use Taiping Island as the starting point for implementation of his South China Sea Peace Initiative by transforming Taiping into "an island for peace and rescue operations, as well as an ecologically friendly and low-carbon island."

That will involve conducting international scientific research projects on ecological and marine issues, expanding the island's solar and water management systems; and using the island's hospital as the base for an emergency rescue center, according to Ma.

"Through these concrete actions, we aim to demonstrate to the international community that the Republic of China is committed to fulfilling its international obligations and actively serving as a peacemaker and provider of humanitarian aid, so as to truly transform the South China Sea into a sea of peace and cooperation," Ma said.

But the report questioned whether Beijing would support parts or all of Ma's proposal, especially the part about allowing all parties in the dispute a voice in discussions over the issue.

China considers Taiwan its province to be reunified one day and attempts to prevent it from participating in international groups and meetings.

It is unlikely that Beijing "would ever allow Taiwan to join a multilateral framework with the other South China Sea claimants such as the one Ma described," the report said.

But it added: "Taiwan can still move to pursue bilateral agreements with other parties, as it has done by signing an agreement with the Philippines for law enforcement cooperation on fishing issues."

Barring meaningful participation in a regional conversation, the least Taiwan can do is to demonstrate to the international community that it is committed to fulfilling its international obligations and to actively serving as a peacemaker, the report said.

But whether Ma's visit will achieve that goal is an open question, it said, adding that before Ma's departure for Taiping, the United States and Vietnam expressed opposition to the trip.

The report also noted that it is still unclear what will become of Ma's initiative, as Taiwan will inaugurate a new president in May, when Tsai Ing-wen (???) of the Democratic Progressive Party will take office.

Although Tsai, like Ma, has called for all parties in the disputes to respect international law and freedom of navigation and overflight, it is likely that her plan for realizing the goals will not look exactly like Ma's road map for peace in the region, the report said.

Several countries, including Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, claim all or parts of the South China Sea and its islets. (By Tony Liao and Elaine Hou)

Updated : 2021-05-12 12:12 GMT+08:00