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Ma reaches Taiping Island, proposes map for peace initiative

ROC Central News Agency

2016/01/28 16:39:11

Taipei, Jan. 28 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) landed on the Taiwan-administered Taiping Island in the South China Sea at around 11 a.m. Thursday and shortly after his arrival, made a speech in which he proposed a road map for his South China Sea peace initiative.

As part of the road map, Ma said, all parties concerned should be included in a mechanism for talks so that they can cooperate on important issues in the region, according to a statement released by the Presidential Office that contained the full text of the president's speech.

The mechanism should be 'a provisional arrangement of a practical nature,' and should not undermine the position of any party concerned, or hamper the reaching of a final agreement on the South China Sea disputes, Ma said.

In the short term, all parties concerned should shelve their disputes, pledge to replace military confrontation with peaceful consultations, refrain from taking actions that might affect stability and peace in the South China Sea, and ensure the freedom and safety of navigation and flight through the region, Ma said.

After building trust, the parties should negotiate codes of conduct regarding unexpected sea or air encounters in the South China Sea area, as well as the establishment of hotlines and other security mechanisms, the president said.

In the mid term, all parties concerned should cooperate on a variety of issues, such as the conservation and management of living resources, the exploration of non-living resources, marine environmental protection and scientific research, crime prevention at sea, as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, Ma said.

In the long term, Ma proposed establishing a mechanism for 'zonal development,' meaning that parties concerned could designate specific maritime areas for bilateral or multilateral development.

Ma said the road map is based on a framework of three yeses and three noes: 'yes' to cooperation, sharing and pragmatism and 'no' to confrontation, monopolizing and intransigence.

The proposal for the road map follows Ma's announcement of his South China Sea peace initiative on May 26 last year. The initiative calls on all parties concerned to reduce tension, increase dialogues, abide by international law, uphold the freedom of navigation and flight, maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea, and settle disputes peacefully.

Several countries, including Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam claim all or parts of the South China Sea.

Ma was accompanied by officials and scholars on his trip to Taiping Island Thursday, the first such visit by a Republic of China president since Ma's predecessor, Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), went to the island in February 2008. No reporters were invited on the trip.

The visit took place as the government moves to reinforce Taiwan's sovereignty claim over the island in the wake of China's buildup in the region and the Philippines' case against Beijing at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague.

During his speech, Ma also rebutted a claim by the Philippines that Taiping Island has no fresh water, no arable soil and is unfit for human habitation, and therefore should not be described as an 'island,' but a 'rock,' in which case no soverignty claim can be made in territorial waters beyond 12 nautical miles.

Ma said such statements are 'totally wrong' and have no basis in science or fact.

He said Taiping Island, formed around 3 million years ago, is the only island in the Nanshas to have its own sources of potable water. Annual rainfall on the island reaches roughly 3,000 millimeters and the island has an abundance of natural vegetation, Ma noted.

He said the government is working to transform Taiping Island 'into an island for peace and rescue operations, as well as an ecologically friendly and low-carbon island.'

(By Hsieh Chia-chen and Christie Chen)

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