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Full text of Ma's speech on East China Sea Initiative guidelines

ROC Central News Agency

2012/09/07 21:55:44

Taipei, Sept 7 (CNA) The following is the full text of the speech President Ma Ying-jeou delivered on Pengjia Islet Friday in which he proposed guidelines for implementing his East China Sea Initiative.

Concrete Steps to Implement the East China Sea Peace Initiative Remarks by President Ma Ying-jeou

Secretary-General Hu Wei-chen of the National Security Council; Minister Wang Jinn-Wang of the Coast Guard Administration; Heads of ministries, commissions and councils under the Executive Yuan; Members of the Legislative Yuan; Representative from various agencies; Coast Guard Administration personnel; Customs officials and Central Weather Bureau staff stationed on the island; Professors; Ladies and gentlemen from the press:

Good afternoon!

Since I took office four years ago, it has been my goal to visit every corner of Taiwan, and I have long wanted to visit Pengjia Islet in the East China Sea. On August 5, I proposed the East China Sea Peace Initiative, which has been well received in Taiwan and abroad. Over the past few weeks, however, activists from Hong Kong and Japan have landed on the Diaoyutai Islands, and anti-Japanese protests have taken place in 20 cities across mainland China in response to Japanese actions, creating international headlines. With the situation in the East China Sea deteriorating, the importance of the East China Sea Peace Initiative has further increased. By visiting Pengjia Islet today, I intend to not only reiterate my country's sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands, but also to propose a pragmatic solution to the disputes concerning the islands in accordance with the spirit of the Initiative.

I. Visiting Pengjia Islet to show concern for islands part of Taiwan

Part of the "Three Northern Isles" along with Huaping Islet and Mianhua Islet, Pengjia Islet covers an area of 1.14 square kilometers and is located 33 nautical miles from Keelung. Only 76 nautical miles to the west of the Diaoyutai Islands, Pengjia Islet is the closest ROC-held territory to the island chain. In terms of administrative jurisdiction, Pengjia Islet is part of the Zhongzheng District of Keelung City, while the Diaoyutai Islands are under the administrative jurisdiction of Daxi Village in Toucheng Township of Yilan County.

The Pengjia Islet and Diaoyutai Islands are young, cone-shaped volcanic islands located at the edge of a continental shelf, which lies at a depth of 200 meters in the East China Sea, and are extensions of the Guanyin and Datun mountain ranges in northern Taiwan. They are separated from the Ryukyu Islands by the 2,717-meter deep Okinawa Trough, which can be clearly seen on the maps to my left and right. Pengjia Islet and the Diaoyutai Islands on the one hand, and the Ryukyu Islands on the other hand, therefore belong to different geological areas.

In terms of natural resources, the waters surrounding Pengjia Islet and the Diaoyutai Islands feature an abundance of skipjack tuna, mackerel and carangidae, and for centuries have been fishing grounds for fishermen from northeastern Taiwan, who can easily reach this area. Fishermen from the Ryukyu Islands, however, rarely come here to fish due to headwinds and adverse currents. During the period of Japanese occupation, the Taiwan Governor-General Office in 1920 officially designated the Diaoyutai Islands and their surrounding waters as skipjack tuna fishing grounds for Taiwan fishermen. Five years later, in 1925, the Office published Taiwan Shuichan Yaolan ("Overview of Taiwan's Aquaculture") and reiterated that the Diaoyutai Islands and their surrounding waters were "important fishing grounds" for Taiwan.

However, since the Diaoyutai dispute flared up in the 1970s, Taiwanese fishermen have frequently been subjected to interference from Japanese coast guard ships while operating in this area, and the volume of fish caught has greatly declined as a result. In 2011, the volume of fish caught in the waters surrounding the Diaoyutai Islands reached 3,400 metric tons, which amounted to less than 5% of the 77,000 metric tons caught around the "Three Northern Isles". However, we have heard complaints from our people recently that, despite the high level of friendship that the Republic of China (Taiwan) has shown Japan, it still interferes with Taiwanese fishermen operating in our traditional fishing grounds.

II. Shelving territorial disputes and engaging in peaceful dialogue

The East China Sea Peace Initiative I proposed recently is meant to give effect to the principles we base our handling of the Diaoyutai dispute on, these being "safeguarding sovereignty, shelving disputes, pursuing peace and reciprocity, and promoting joint exploration and development." The Diaoyutais are an island group that is part of Taiwan and therefore the territory of the Republic of China. In 1895, during the First Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese government secretly invaded and occupied the Diaoyutai Islands. This act of aggression violated international law, since the islands were, at the time, the territory of the Qing Dynasty under the jurisdiction of Kavalan Subprefecture (today known as Yilan), Taiwan Province. The islands were never terra nullius, or "ownerless land." Furthermore, Japan's occupation of the islands was never promulgated by Japanese Imperial Decree, meaning that the outside world was not informed of this decision. The occupation was therefore, according to international law, null and void from the beginning. As a result, it had no binding effect on the Qing Dynasty at that time, which is still the case today with the Republic of China. As such, we will never make any unilateral concessions on the nation's sovereignty over the Diaoyutais. Rather, we would like to urge all parties concerned to commit to resolving disputes through peaceful means, to shelve controversies and engage in dialogue, and to jointly explore and develop resources in the East China Sea. The Republic of China (Taiwan) is a responsible stakeholder in the international community. As President, I believe it is necessary to again call on all parties concerned to deal with this crisis in a cautious and rational manner, and to avoid jeopardizing peace and stability in East Asia. I also call on both the ruling and opposition parties in Taiwan to end their confrontation and infighting over this issue, and come together for the sake of peace in the region. We must understand the fact that the Diaoyutais have been an island part of Taiwan since the Ming Dynasty. They were never part of the territory of Japan and we can never sacrifice the rights that Taiwanese fishermen have held for hundreds of years.

Over the past four years, I have introduced a policy of viable diplomacy, I have promoted the special partnership between Taiwan and Japan, and I have committed to improving cross-strait relations. As a result, our relations with both mainland China and Japan are the most cordial they have been for the last 60 years. I proposed the East China Sea Peace Initiative in order to ensure that this peaceful and friendly state of affairs continues. To get as much benefit out of the Initiative as possible, I hereby propose the Guidelines for Implementing the East China Sea Initiative.

Simply put, these guidelines cover a wide range of areas, such as fisheries, the mining industry, maritime scientific research and environmental protection, as well as maritime security and unconventional security issues. Implementation is to take place in two stages: firstly, "holding peaceful dialogue and mutually beneficial talks", followed by "cooperating on exploring and developing shared resources." The aim is to bring to fruition a blueprint for peace and cooperation in the East China Sea.

III. Practical measures for undertaking the East China Sea Initiative: from three parallel tracks of bilateral dialogue to a single track of trilateral negotiations

I would like here to reiterate that, while national sovereignty cannot be divided, natural resources can, however, be shared. In the past, Europe has also experienced sovereignty disputes, in the North Sea. Yet the countries involved were able to find a way to share resources in a spirit of joint exploration. They consequently developed oil fields and created the world-renowned Brent Crude oil marker, which also stimulated economic growth in those countries. We in this region would do well to consider their experience.

Indeed, returning from the European example to the East China Sea issue at hand here in Asia, I have proposed a way out of the problem. I hope that all parties concerned will hold bilateral dialogues as soon as possible, and look into the feasibility of joint cooperation on exploring and developing resources in the East China Sea. With the prerequisite being that the sovereignty claims of all parties concerned will not be affected, and based on the principles of "replacing confrontation with dialogue" and "replacing controversies with consultations", this can be done through existing bilateral mechanisms.

The various parties concerned could start by holding three parallel tracks of bilateral dialogue, which, once consensus has been reached, could gradually progress toward a single track of trilateral negotiation. In concrete terms, this would mean moving "from three sets of bilateral dialogue to one set of trilateral negotiation." The bilateral dialogues refer to talks between Taiwan and Japan, between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland, and between Japan and the mainland. The trilateral negotiation would involve Taiwan, Japan, and the mainland.

Japan and the Chinese mainland have bilateral agreements on fishery and petroleum. Taiwan is negotiating a fishery agreement with Japan and we should also not rule out the possibility of future cooperation on petroleum development. Taiwan also cooperates with the mainland on oil and gas exploration in the Taiwan Strait as well as sea rescue efforts, although no progress has been made yet in cross-strait fishery cooperation. While the existing mechanisms for mutual interaction are not ideal-at times being suspended or becoming a mere formality-they can serve as the foundation for expanded cooperation. The key lies in whether the concerned parties have the determination, the sincerity, and the creativity to undertake mutually beneficial negotiation for expanded cooperation to address the issues.

Sovereignty disputes in the international community can generally be peacefully resolved in four ways: (1) negotiation (consultation); (2) mediation (intercession); (3) arbitration; and (4) litigation. These approaches are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but must all begin with negotiation (consultation). Knowledgeable experts in the concerned parties believe that in order to prevent the situation from worsening, all parties should come up with a more sincere and creative resolution to preclude any outbreak of conflict and war. Viewed proactively, even without any further worsening of the situation, the three parties concerned-Taiwan, Japan, and the Chinese mainland-have allowed the rich resources in the East China Sea to go untapped for 40 years, which is a senseless waste given today's high oil prices and food shortages.

Japan has previously proposed to South Korea that the dispute over Dokdo/Takeshima Island be settled through litigation in an international court. At a recent interview with Japan's NHK, I too suggested that the issue be resolved by law. If litigation is not viable, then as long as there is consensus, international arbitration or mediation is not necessarily impossible.

Since these dialogues or negotiations would not affect the parties' claims of sovereignty to the Diaoyutai Islands, the parties should at least be pragmatic in acknowledging the fact that disputes do exist among them, for only then can they set aside their disputes, deal with them peacefully and seek a feasible plan for joint development of resources.

IV.A salute to the coast guard and strengthening of coast guard deployment

Ever since I took office, we have staunchly safeguarded our fishermen's right to operate in the Diaoyutai waters. Our coast guard provides protection to all our fishing boats operating legally at sea. The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) has at least one vessel on line, patrolling the Diaoyutai waters to provide protection day and night to our fishermen. Over the past four years or so, CGA patrol vessels have engaged in a standoff with patrol vessels of the Japan Coast Guard on 10 separate occasions, the longest lasting five hours, fully demonstrating proactive actions to defend our national territory and often attracting the attention of media in Taiwan and the international press. In contrast to the authorities of mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, only the ROC regularly dispatches patrol vessels to defend our territorial waters and protect our fishermen.

To defend our sovereignty and protect the rights and interests of our fishermen, our coast guard sailors, under the leadership of CGA Minister Wang Jinn-wang, brave wind and wave dauntlessly to ensure the safety of Taiwan's fishing boats and respect for our sovereignty. Let me salute their courage!

As the old adage goes, "The tinkerer who would do good work ought to start by looking after his tools." Since I took office as President, one of my priorities has been to upgrade CGA equipment. We have allocated NT$24 billion to the building of new vessels or upgrades to extend the usable life of ones already in service. This will enhance our law enforcement capabilities in the nation's littoral waters. A total of 41 patrol vessels, some of which have already been completed, are scheduled to enter service by 2017. Eight vessels (3,600 metric tons) have been delivered, and another ten (14,100 metric tons) will be commissioned by 2016. These will significantly improve our law enforcement capacity in the East China Sea, the South China Sea, and the Pacific Ocean.

V. Becoming more Aware of the Ocean, Supporting the Coast Guard, and Safeguarding Maritime Sovereignty

In the past, it was the Navy that defended our territorial waters; now it is the CGA which enforces the law and protects our fishermen's rights. Their actions prevent war, defend our territory, prevent confrontations, and maintain regional stability. This conforms to the spirit of the East China Sea Peace Initiative. In the future, ROC Navy and CGA vessels will continue to patrol, to carry out training exercises and maneuvers, and protect our fishermen in our territorial waters and on the high seas. These efforts all have the same end: the maintenance of peace.

As this is my first visit here, I would like to express my appreciation to those running the meteorological equipment and beacons, as well as the coast guard, for your hard work. Since landing, I have taken a look at targets being monitored by radar, and hosted a videoconference from here in the CGA's control tower. I spoke with our command post on the Spratly Islands, some 1,000 nautical miles away. I expressed my admiration for the spirited efforts of the CGA.

I want to thank our friends from the media for having taken the two-and-a-half-hour boat journey here to witness the CGA's "Caolai Drill." I hope you have enjoyed your stay. We hope to encourage people to become more aware of the ocean, support the coast guard, and help uphold our maritime sovereignty. We look for all parties concerned to, in the spirit of the East China Sea Peace Initiative, engage in peaceful dialogue, hold mutually beneficial negotiations, share resources, and engage in joint exploration and development of the region.

In closing, let me wish all of you a safe return journey, and the best of luck in all of your future endeavors. Thank you.

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