By Annette Lu
Taiwan News, Contributing Writer
2013-10-22 01:33 PM
East China Sea
The focal points of our Forum are the disputes over the East and South China Seas among a variety of claimant states. At the East China Sea, the Diaoyutai or Senkaku Islands used to be nearly ignored till April 2012, when the governor of Tokyo Shintaro Ishihara claimed to buy those islets and later became nationalized by Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
China was outraged and an anti-Japan Campaign across the nation was immediately launched. Ever since then a frequent series of military intimation between these two great powers have been aroused. The worst of the all was in December last year when fighter jets of both China and Japan encountered within only 3 meters of distance. A war was nearly triggered. Tensions in this area were thus created and have been deteriorated by the hostility between these two neighboring countries.
In fact, Diaoyutai Islands are located 100 nautical miles away from here, but 200 miles from China and 400 miles from Japan. Agree or disagree, the Diaoyutai Islands belong to Taiwan historically and geographically.
Geologically Diaoyutai Islands are the natural prolongation of Taiwan’s territory. The islands are made up of igneous rocks, and their chemical and geographic characteristics are the same as Taiwan’s Mt. Datun, Keelung Islet, Huaping Islet, and Pengjia Islet.
Historically the Diaoyutais have been Taiwanese fishermen’s traditional fishing grounds generation by generation. There is sufficient scientific evidence to support that the Diaoyutais belong to Taiwan. Tomorrow afternoon in Su-ao you will meet our fishermen who will share with you their stories.
All the arguments regarding the sovereignty issue made by either Japan or China are not justified. On 14 January 1895, during the First Sino-Japanese War, Japan secretly incorporated the islands under the administration of Okinawa on the basis of terra nullius, meaning “land belonging to no one.” But according to Public International Law, the occupation of a terra nullius must be declared publicly without any country’s objection. Therefore Japan’s secret and illegal occupation of the Diaoyutais is invalid.
Ever since 1949 when the People’s Republic of China was founded, China did not aggressively express its concerns about the Diaoyutai dispute. In 1978 Deng Xiaoping expressed his stand of not touching the Diaoyutais issue when signing the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship. The Diaoyutais have not become the hot potato until Japan nationalized these islets.
To us Taiwanese, the Diaoyutais were as quiet as sleeping beauties at the sea. Why bother to wake them up and to disturb and to invade them? Because they are good for fishery. They are rich in marine natural resources. Moreover, they are significant for military strategy.
Why have these islets attracted big powers recently? Simply because they happen to be located at the line on the First Island Chain built by the U.S. to contain Mainland China. China was thus blocked from accessing to the Pacific Ocean by the Island Chain but would be free to fly and to sail to the Pacific Ocean once she breaks the Chain – or occupies the Diaoyutais.
Along with its economic strength, China has been anxious to enhance its military power, especially its marine power. It is no secret that Chinese hegemony is everywhere, not to mention in its vicinity. China desires to get even with Japan, as the latter had defeated and occupied the former for 8 years. China also desires to compete with America and to win the World Champion ahead of America. In 2007 when U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Timothy Keating visited Beijing, a PRC military official proposed to him that let the Pacific Ocean be divided from Hawaii and co-managed by China and America on each side. The policy of co-management of the Pacific apparently has become part of China’s Dream of Big Power.
In a word, the early stage of the 21st century is the history of competition between Chinese Dragon and American Eagle. Imagine that a Dragon flies from the West and an Eagle from the East over the Pacific Ocean. Are they singing and dancing, or are they fighting when they encounter?
Despite that the United States and Japan used to be enemies at World War II, they have become good and strong allies nowadays. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proclaimed his platform of “the Arc of Freedom and Prosperity” in 2007. And after taking inauguration he proposed the strategy of “Asia’s Democratic Security Diamond”. According to him, both the East China Sea and South China Sea will soon become the Lake of Beijing under the control of China as her inner sea. He therefore urged that the strategic alliance be formed among U.S., Japan, India, and Australia together.
Apparently Japan eagers to ally with those powers in order to counterattack China. In particular, Japan eagers to take advantage of America’s “Return-to-Asia” policy to alter their constitution and to normalize their nation. The more tensions with China are created, the better opportunities for Japan to upgrade their military force and to normalize their constitution.
Being the first U.S. President born and grew up in Pacific, President Obama starting from his first term began to turn his attention from Afghanistan and Iraq to the Western Pacific, trying to enforce a Pivot to Asia policy and a Rebalancing Strategy to Asia. As one can see, America’s Asia policy to a great degree is to establish a strategic network to hold back China. This will need to draw a diamond shape from Okinawa through Guam, Taiwan, and Darwin in Australia.
From Washington’s viewpoint, the Diaoyutais are within the shelter of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan. The East China Sea and Bohai Sea will be besieged and China’s coastal cities will face missile threats. The Diaoyutais have become the throat of a crocodile and have thus become a new ammunition depot in the Northeast China. As one of the vertex of the diamond, Taiwan’s strategic role is crucial to the U.S.
Moreover, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea declares a state’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to a distance of 200 nautical miles. China, Japan, and Taiwan all want to extend their EEZ from the Diaoyutais, making it overlapped with one another’s.
The three most powerful powers on earth covet for the islets, just like three tough guys standing by the gate of Taiwan and ready to kidnap her beautiful daughter. Can we Taiwan close our eyes pretending nothing is happening?
South China Sea
The South China Sea is an extremely significant body of water in a geopolitical sense. It is the second most used sea lane in the world. In terms of world annual merchant fleet tonnage, over 50% of which passes through the Strait of Malacca, the Sunda Strait, and the Lombok Strait. Over 10 million barrels of crude oil per day are shipped through the Strait of Malaccaa, where regular reports of piracy are made, though much less frequent recently.
The South China Sea is more problematic than the East China Sea as territorial disputes in this region involve both land (island) and maritime among seven states, including Taiwan, China, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia. From a broader perspective, the U.S. and ASEAN member states are also involved. The disputes include the maritime boundaries in the Gulf of Tonkin andhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_of_Tonkin off the coasts of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines. There is a further dispute in the waters near Indonesia's Natuna Islands. Additionally, there are disputes among the various island chains of the South China Sea basin, including the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands.
In May 2009, Vietnam and Malaysia looked for the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf’s (CLCS) arbitration of the outer limits of their continental shelves beyond 200 nautical miles. It was the beginning of the recent tensions in the South China Sea. On April 8, 2012, a Philippine Navy surveillance plane spotted eight Chinese fishing vessels docked at the waters of Scarborough Shoal. The Philippine Navy attempted to arrest the Chinese fishermen but was blocked by Chinese maritime surveillance ships. Since the standoff, tensions have continued between the two countries.
In July 2012, the National Assembly of Vietnam passed a law demarcating Vietnamese sea borders to include the Spratly and Paracel Islands. On September 5, Philippine President Aquino promulgated Administrative Order No. 29, naming maritime areas on the western side of the Philippine archipelago as the West Philippine Sea. The order declares that the Philippines exercises "sovereign jurisdiction" in its exclusive economic zone.
One year later on 9 May 2013, an unarmed Taiwanese fishing boat Guang Da Xing No. 28 was shot by Philippine’s armed marine ship with 50 bullet holes, resulting the death of one fisherman. The tension and hostility between these neighboring countries were suddenly aroused. After confrontation and negotiation, the Philippines conducted inquiry indicted homicide charges against eight Philippine Coast Guard personnel involved in the shooting. A representative of the Philippines’ President flew to Taiwan to officially apologize to the victim's family.
However, some positive and possible resolutions have been in progress. ASEAN has been keen to ensure that the territorial disputes within the South China Sea do not escalate into armed conflict. As such, Joint Development Authorities have been set up in areas of overlapping claims to jointly develop the area and dividing the profits equally without settling the issue of sovereignty over the area. Although the Philippines and Vietnam have territorial disputes over the Spratly Islands, both countries were committed to a multilateral diplomatic approach to the resolution of disputes in the South China Sea with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea taken to account this year. Just a couple of days ago, China and Vietnam have agreed to set up a working group to jointly explore their disputed waters in the South China Sea as the two nations vowed to move beyond the territorial row and enhance bilateral ties. This agreement was announced after talks between Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and China’s Premier Li Keqiang. Li declared that "the development tells the international community that China and Vietnam have the capability and wisdom to keep the South China Sea peaceful, expand their common interests and narrow their disputes."
The interests of claimant states include acquiring fishing areas around these islands, the potential exploitation of suspected crude oil and natural gas under the waters of various parts of the East and South China Seas, and the strategic control of important shipping lanes.
Diaoyutais did not become popular until the United Nations Economic Committee for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) identified a potential of crude oil and gas reserves in the vicinity of the area in 1969. The South China Sea has proven to have oil reserves of an estimate of 28 billion barrels in total. Natural gas reserves are estimated to total around 7,500 km³ (266 trillion cubic feet). A 2013 report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration raised the total estimated oil reserves to 11 billion barrels.
According to studies made by Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the South China Sea holds one third of the entire world's marine biodiversity, an important area for the ecosystem. However the fish stocks in the area are depleted, and countries are using fishing bans as a means of asserting their sovereignty claims.
According to the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean, the number of Pacific Bluefin Tunas has decreased 96.4% from 1952 to 2011. It is estimated that there are only ten thousand adult Bluefin Tunas left in the Pacific. The United Nations warned us that overfishing has resulted in the depletion of 85% of commercial fishes.
14 years ago, fishermen in Pingtung, Taiwan used to catch over 11,000 Bluefin Tunas annually. But the number has dropped sharply incredibly. Last year only 400 Pacific Bluefin Tunas were caught, and 200 for this year! This situation forced Taiwanese fishermen to sail farther, very often entering other states’ EEZ. This puts their lives at stake. We hope that cooperative and friendly relations between the two countries can be restored, and the two sides refrain from using force or violence to enforce law.
Should we conserve the Seas? Of course! Marine conservation relies on marine biology, oceanography, and fisheries science, as well as on human demand for marine resources and marine law, economics and policy to best protect and conserve marine species and ecosystems. The 1966 Convention on Fishing and Conservation of Living Resources of the High Seas was thus enacted and enforced. Many countries also made laws to protect the seas. Marine conservation is another important theme for our Forum.
For the sake of stability and prosperity in East and Southeast Asia as well as the sustainable development of the Ocean, I would like to initiate on the basis of the Antarctic Treaty and the Red Sea Marine Peace Park that the two China Seas be demilitarized and a marine conservation zone be developed.
On 1 December 1959, 12 nations signed The Antarctic Treaty to protect Antarctica. The treaty, entering into force in 1961 and currently having 50 signatory nations, sets aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, establishes freedom of scientific investigation and bans military activity on that continent. The main objective of the Treaty is to ensure the interests of all humankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international disorder. Article 4 of the Treaty reads: “the treaty does not recognize, dispute, nor establish territorial sovereignty claims; no new claims shall be asserted while the treaty is in force.” Article 11 reads: “all disputes to be settled peacefully by the parties concerned or, ultimately, by the International Court of Justice.”
The Antarctica model turns out a success. Since the enforcement of the Treaty, the Antarctica has been well preserved without any military activity on the continent.
Let us also pay our attention to the Gulf of Aqaba. Israel and Jordan share 41 kilometers of shoreline around the northern Gulf of Aqaba. The Gulf of Aqaba is a semi-enclosed sea with unique natural and physical features, foremost of which is its coral reef ecosystem, one of the northernmost and most diverse in the world. But uncontrolled large-scale mariculture activities may alter the composition of sediment and water in the Gulf. Accelerated urbanization and development threaten to overload the natural resource base of the area and its ability to sustain development.
The initiation of the Middle East Peace Process provided the right opportunity. In 1994, during the Trilateral Peace Negotiation Process between Jordan and Israel with the support of the United States, the two countries agreed to develop a Binational Red Sea Marine Peace Park. Recognition of the unique and fragile nature of the Gulf has led each country to undertake steps to protect the coral reef and its environments. Both countries recognized that joint research, management and cooperation were required to protect the Gulf's sensitive environmental resources. It also lays the groundwater for a long-standing working relationship between Israeli and Jordanian authorities.
Another example that might inspire us is the recent development of the Kuril Islands dispute between Japan and Russia. Japan’s Prime Minister Abe visited Moscow in April this year. He made good on promises to restart talks on the disputed nature of the islands. Abe said that it is necessary to increase the cooperation between both countries. Russia’s President Putin suggested drawing a line with half of land area on each side of the Islands as a solution to the dispute.
5 months later on September 5, Putin, an avid judoist, agreed with Abe at the G-20 Summit that a post-World War II peace deal between the two states could finally be reached only under the judo principle of hikiwake – “no winner, no loser.” Remember, the two states have never signed a permanent peace treaty after World War II because of a long-running territorial dispute over the Kuril Islands, occupied by Soviet forces at the end of the war but claimed by Japan.
All these disputes almost focused on one main issue: territorial sovereignty. Sovereignty claims over disputed islands have long existed between states, and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea worsens and complicates it. But there are cases in which such disputes have been resolved successfully.
How can the parties concerned in the dispute avoid hostilities? How may peace be ensured in the East and South China Seas? Sovereignty claim and control of marine resources should not be the tipping point of international disputes and hostilities. It is in everyone's interest to pursue perpetual maritime peace and sustainable development.
Since 2012, I have been thinking about these questions, especially the Diaoyutai dispute, and several ideas came out of my mind based on the successful models I just mentioned earlier. Please allow me to summarize my main points:
All armed forces withdraw from 12 nautical miles of the islets so as to restore peace in this area.
No territorial sovereignty claims should be allowed to undermine the stability and peace in this area.
No military/law enforcement or nuclear activities are allowed to be conducted in this area.
Develop the East China Sea and South China Sea to become an international marine conservation zone and marine peace parks through cooperation of all claimant states. The development shall be exclusively for peaceful purposes.
These points construct my Peace Initiative for Marine Disputes. Earlier this year, I traveled to Manila, Seoul, New York, and Washington, DC. to advocate it. In January I took the opportunity to address the Peace Initiative before 600 participants coming from 18 countries at the conference hosted by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) at the Manila Hotel, the headquarters of General MacArthur to command the war and peace during World War II. UPF has a leading consultative status within the UN ECOSOC community. My message was well accepted and many world peace activists and leaders came to convey their consent and support. Later in March in Seoul I addressed before representatives coming from 100 countries and received very positive feedback as well. In April I traveled to the East Coast of the United States, visiting think tanks and congressmen. My initiative also won their support.
On April 10 when I was talking at New York University, Japan and Taiwan reached a fisheries agreement after endless efforts. The agreement puts aside sovereignty disputes. Taiwan reached consensus with Japan under the principles of parity and reciprocity. The agreement will protect the rights and interests of Taiwanese fishermen operating within a designated zone. It will extend their fishing area by an additional 1,400 square nautical miles (approximately 4,530 square kilometers). An institutionalized mechanism in the form of a Taiwan-Japan fisheries committee will be established to conduct consultations on other issues regarding fishing grounds, bilateral fishery cooperation and the like. This agreement is a significant development for both Japan and Taiwan, particularly identical to my Peace Initiative. To maintain permanent peace in this area, these provisional arrangements are just not enough. Many unresolved issues still remain. I believe that demilitarization and conservation of the East and South China Seas can be the best option for all parties concerned.
It is easier to trigger a war, but much harder to end it. War cannot solve problems but cause more problems. As Aristotle taught us, “It is not enough to win a war; it is more important to organize the peace.” Let’s work together to prevent a war and to organize peace.