Ma visits Taiping, asserts nation’s claim

By Yuan-Ming Chiao ,The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Ma embarked on the journey early Thursday, taking a C-130 military plane from Pingtung County after flying in from Taipei Songshan Airport. The president and his accompanying party of government officials and academic experts arrived on Taiping Island, located approximately 1,600 kilometers south of Taiwan proper, at 11 a.m. In a statement made on arrival, Ma outlined the four main reasons for his visit to the island, which is part of an ongoing territorial dispute among nine claimants in the South China Sea. They included: visiting Coast Guard personnel stationed on the island before the Lunar New Year, presenting a roadmap to his South China Sea Peace Initiative (南海和平倡議), proposing how Taiping Island could serve peaceful purposes and clarifying the island’s legal status. Roadmap Speaking on the direction of Taiwan’s proposed policy in the disputed area, Ma said that the government wanted to proceed under the principles of “cooperation, sharing (resources) and pragmatism” rather than “tension, monopolization and stalemate.”

Ma went on to say that the roadmap for peace framework would include “comprehensive planning” that would designate certain areas of interest as focus points for cooperative initiatives. These would include the conservation and management of biological resources, marine research and maritime crime prevention. He stated that long-term goals would include agreements among all relevant parties for sharing and opening up certain zones within the region. During an international press conference at Taipei Songshan Airport upon his return on Thursday evening, Ma stated that formulating an actionable framework involving the shelving of differences is the next logical step following his proposal for a peace initiative made last year. He cited U.S. “appreciation” for efforts of the Ma administration in lowering tensions with Japan in the East China Sea, which resulted in signed agreements over fishing rights, saying that his plans for the South China Sea would be based on the same principles.