By Joe hung
Officials of the American Institute in Taiwan are said to have met behind closed doors with a number of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers early last week to express Washington’s “anger” at President Ma Ying-jeou’s move to confront Japan over the disputed islands called Senkakus by the Japanese and Diaoyutais in Taiwan. If it’s true, there’s something strange about the episode. According to a foreign relations advisor to the opposition party who was present at the meeting, the Americans expressed concerns about a greater willingness in Taipei to cooperate with China on issues in which it sees their interests as aligned against those of the Japanese, which, however, are clearly indicated in a U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS) report dated Jan. 13. As a matter of fact, the CRS report cites some analysts as agreeing there is an issue for U.S. policymakers surrounding whether Taiwan coordinated with the People’s Republic of China in asserting sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands against Japan amid rising tensions last September. CRS reports are not confidential. Anybody can get online and download them. That means there is no need whatsoever for AIT officials to brief DPP legislators on the American position on the eight uninhabited islets, whose sovereignty dispute is caused by the arbitrary return of the Ryukyu Islands under U.S. trusteeship to Japanese control in 1972. Unless the lawmakers can’t read English and nobody volunteered to translate a few paragraphs in the Jan. 13 CRS report that concerns Taiwan’s move on the Diaoyutais. Moreover, it’s no secret that the Americans are concerned about Taipei-Beijing cooperation on the sovereignty issue over the disputed islands which the Chinese call the Diaoyus. The People’s Republic has been urging cooperation over the tiny archipelago, only 100 miles northeast of Keelung, to advance ties across the Taiwan Strait, while Taipei has never tired of denying cooperating with Beijing.
But Washington’s “anger” is nowhere to be seen the CRS report. Mention is made on the American concern that even without explicit coordination, the parallel actions of the People’s Republic and Taiwan in the current East China Sea flare-up have added pressure against Japan as both of them deployed government patrol ships and military assets that raised concerns about the potential for accidental collisions and escalation of tensions.
In particular, according to the report, Taiwan deployed 12 Coast Guard ships to escort 60 fishing boats and fired water cannon toward Japanese patrol ships and dispatched military systems sold by the United States during the Sept. 25 incident.