TAIPEI–President Ma Ying-jeou told visiting U.S. congressmen yesterday that Taiwan is a peace-loving country that hopes to address territorial disputes in the East China Sea through a peace initiative Ma proposed last year.
The Republic of China (Taiwan) has always asserted that the Diaoyutais are an inherent part of the country’s territory and belong to Taiwan, the president said while meeting with congressmen Gregg Harper (R-Mississippi), Tim Walberg (R-Michigan), John Fleming (R Louisiana) and others at the Presidential Office Monday.
But because the R.O.C. is a member of the international community that loves peace, Ma said he proposed the East China Sea Peace Initiative hoping to resolve the dispute through peaceful means.
“The Republic of China (Taiwan), just as the United States, is a nation that loves freedom, loves peace,” the president told his guests.
Ma said the initiative is based on the idea that although the Diaoyutais are an inseparable part of the ROC, the island chain’s resources can be shared. The Diaoyutais, located about 100 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan, are claimed by Taiwan, Japan and China, but currently fall under the administrative control of Tokyo.
The dispute over the islands flared up last September, when Japan “nationalized” the chain by buying three of its islets from a private owner.
Taiwan and China separately protested the move, and China has since engaged in various military maneuvers in waters near the islands to unsettle Japan and assert its claim, ratcheting up tensions in the region.
Taiwan and Japan, on the other hand, are engaged in talks to resolve disputes over fishing rights in waters near the uninhabited archipelago.
The president, meanwhile, thanked Harper for his support of Taiwan. Harper was impressed by the 2010 Taipei International Flora Expo, prompting him to become a strong supporter and a good friend of Taiwan and organize a visit, according to Ma.
The president said significant progress has been made in improving relations between the two countries as evidenced by frequent visits by high-ranking U.S. officials to Taiwan.
Most recently, Demetrios Marantis, deputy U.S. trade representative, led a delegation to Taiwan for U.S.-Taiwan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks, which helped bilateral ties take a step forward, the president said. Another sign of strengthening ties, Ma said, is that Taiwan’s imports of U.S. beef have regained past levels following the lifting of a ban in July 2012 on U.S. beef containing a veterinary drug.
Also significant, the president said, was Washington’s admittance of Taiwan to its Visa Waiver Program in November 2012.
Taiwan was only the 37th country, and the only one without formal diplomatic relations with the U.S., to receive the privilege, signaling a new era in bilateral ties, he said.