Taiwan outlines peace plan for South China Sea
Over the past few years, the parties concerned have continuously been at odds over disputes in the South China Sea, increasing tensions in the region and eliciting widespread concern in the international community.
The government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) reiterates that, whether from the perspective of history, geography, or international law, the Nansha (Spratly) Islands, Shisha (Paracel) Islands, Chungsha Islands (Macclesfield Bank), and Tungsha (Pratas) Islands, as well as their surrounding waters, are an inherent part of ROC territory and waters.
The ROC enjoys all rights over them in accordance with international law. This is indisputable.
Islands in the South China Sea were first discovered, named, used, and incorporated into national territory by the Chinese.
The ROC recovered the islands from Japan after the Second World War.
San Francisco Treaty
The San Francisco Peace Treaty, which entered into effect on April 28, 1952, as well as the Treaty of Peace between the ROC and Japan which was signed that same day, together with other international legal instruments, reconfirmed that the islands and reefs in the South China Sea occupied by Japan should be returned to the ROC.
In the several decades since, the fact that the ROC owns and exercises effective control over these islands has been recognised by foreign governments and international organisations.
Since President Ma Ying-jeou assumed office in 2008, the ROC has actively strived to improve relations with mainland China. Tensions in the Taiwan Strait have been greatly reduced, and cross-strait relations continue to develop peacefully.
Meanwhile, President Ma proposed the East China Sea Peace Initiative in August 2012 to deal with disputes in the East China Sea as well as the sovereignty issue concerning the Diaoyutai Islands. This initiative not only helped alleviate friction in the region but also facilitated a fisheries agreement signed by the ROC and Japan in April 2013 in accordance with the concept that, even though sovereignty cannot be divided, resources can be shared.
This agreement, ending a 40-year-old fisheries dispute between the ROC and Japan, has been widely recognised by the international community.
Similarly, with regard to disputes in the South China Sea, the ROC government, upholding the basic principles of safeguarding sovereignty, shelving disputes, pursuing peace and reciprocity, and promoting joint development, is willing to exploit resources in the South China Sea in cooperation with the other parties concerned.
It is also prepared to actively participate in related dialogue and cooperation mechanisms, so as to resolve disputes through peaceful means, safeguard regional peace, and promote regional development.
As this year (2015) marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, the countries surrounding the South China Sea should heed the lessons of history and commit themselves to advancing regional peace and prosperity.
Therefore, in view of the rising tensions in the South China Sea, the ROC, based on its successful peace-making experiences in the East China Sea, hereby solemnly proposes the South China Sea Peace Initiative, calling on all parties concerned to (a) exercise restraint, safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea, and refrain from taking any unilateral action that might escalate tensions (b) respect the principles and spirit of relevant international law, including the Charter of the United Nations and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, peacefully deal with and settle disputes through dialogue and consultations, and jointly uphold the freedom and safety of navigation and overflight through the South China Sea (c) ensure that all parties concerned are included in mechanisms or measures that enhance peace and prosperity in the South China Sea, e.g. a maritime cooperation mechanism or code of conduct (d) set up coordination and cooperation mechanisms for such non-traditional security issues as environmental protection, scientific research, maritime crime fighting, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (e) shelve sovereignty disputes and establish a regional cooperation mechanism for the zonal development of resources in the South China Sea under integrated planning; and (f) set up coordination and cooperation mechanisms for such non-traditional security issues as environmental protection, scientific research, maritime crime fighting, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
Sea of Peace
The ROC is willing to work with the other parties concerned to implement the concepts and spirit of the South China Sea Peace Initiative in order to resolve disputes and jointly develop resources, thereby making the South China Sea a “Sea of Peace and Cooperation” similar to the East China Sea.
Editor’s Note: The above was sent to us by Chung-Hsing Chou, Director General, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Auckland.