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Amb. Chen Talks About Diaoyutai Issues and East China Sea Peace Initiative


Amb. Chen Talks About Diaoyutai Issues and East China Sea Peace Initiative


Source: National Policy Foundation    Oct. 18, 2012     


The US Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) held on October 17 a symposium in Washington D.C., titled “Taiwan's Approach to Escalating Sovereignty Disputes in East Asia,” talking about Taiwan’s stance on sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands and President Ma’s expressed desire to establish a code of conduct in light of territorial disputes in the East China Sea. In addition, a panel of experts also addressed Taiwan's approach to the ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and what role, or potential role, Taiwan can play in resolving the dispute. 

The symposium was moderated by Christopher K. Johnson, Senior Advisor and Freeman Chair in China Studies, CSIS.

Alan Romberg, Director of the East Asia Program, Stimson Center; Randy Schriver, Partner, Armitage International LLC; and Amb. Stephen S. F. Chen, Convener of the National Security Division, National Policy Foundation, were invited to the symposium for discussion on issues of concern.

During the meeting, Amb. S.F. Chen read a paper, titled “Diaoyutai Dispute: ROC’s Position and Proposed Initiative,” expounding issues related to the Diaoyutai disputes and President Ma’s “East China Sea Peace Initiative.” 

The following is the full content of Amb. Chen’s paper:

Diaoyutai Dispute: ROC’s Position and Proposed Initiative

1)  Current Dispute

In March this year, the Japanese government officially named four unnamed islets in the Diaoyutai Islands and placed them in its state land registry.  Moreover, in April this year, Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara claimed that Tokyo Prefecture planned to “purchase” three “private” islets in the Diaoyutai Islands.  Then Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda declared on July 7 this year Japan’s intention to “nationalize” the three islets in question, leading to an escalation of tensions over the sovereignty of the Diaoyutai Islands.  The governments of the ROC and the PRC made separate démarches with the Japanese government.  And the US also expressed its concerns.

2)  The ROC Position

Diaoyutai has always been a subsidiary island group of Taiwan.  Located 102 miles from Keelung, it is under the administrative jurisdiction of Yilan County of Taiwan.  From the perspectives of history, geography, geology, use, and international law, Diaoyutai is an inherent part of the ROC territory.

Historically, Diaoyutai has been part of China since the Ming Dynasty.  Geographically, it is nearest to Taiwan.  Geologically, it is on the continental shelf this side of a deep ocean trench, which separates it from the ancient Kingdom of Ryukyu (Now called Okinawa Prefecture after being annexed by Japan in 1879).  The ancient Kingdom of Ryukyu long recognized Diaoyutai as part of China.  In terms of use, it has always been one of the traditional fishing grounds of Taiwan fishermen.

With respect to international law, Diaoyutai was ceded to Japan along with Taiwan and Penghu under the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895.  In accordance with the Cairo Declaration of 1943, the Potsdam Proclamation of 1945, which Japan accepted in its Instrument of Surrender of August 1945 (later reaffirmed by the Peace Treaty of San Francisco of 1951, and the separate Peace Treaty between the ROC and Japan of 1952), Diaoyutai should have been returned to the ROC after the Japanese surrender along with Taiwan and Penghu, for Japan had stolen it from China under the Manchu Dynasty, just as Manchuria and Taiwan.  Therefore, that Diaoyutai belongs to the ROC, as the successor state to the Manchu Dynasty, is beyond question in international law.

3) Origin of the Dispute: What happened in Japan in total secrecy, only later revealed after WWII

The crux of the dispute was Japan considered, but never declared to the outside world, that Japan had annexed Diaoyutai, which they call Senkaku Islands, in January 1895, on the flimsy ground that Diaoyutai was terra nullius.  Diaoyutai was indeed uninhabited, but certainly not without owners.  At the time, the Manchu Dynasty had already been defeated by Japan in the first Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, pending a peace treaty.  When the Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed in April 1895, the geographical coordinates of Taiwan was, deliberately I think, left out by Japan in the peace treaty, neither was the name of Diaoyutai mentioned in the peace treaty.  The treaty simply ceded Taiwan, Penghu, and their subsidiary Islands to Japan.

In fact, the so-called annexation of Daioyutai by Japan was done in a secret session of its Cabinet, not made known to the outside world, including the Manchu Dynasty, which thought that Diaoyutai was included in the cession to Japan along with Taiwan under the treaty.

4)  The US Role in the Issue

After WW II, the US took over the islands in the Pacific under Japanese control, including Taiwan, Penghu, Diaoyutai, and Ryukyu. 

The US turned over Taiwan and Penghu to the ROC in October 1945 in accordance with the Cairo Declaration, the Potsdam Proclamation, and the Instrument of Surrender signed by Japan.  However, the US placed Diaoyutai along with the Ryukyu under US trusteeship.

When the US turned over Ryukyu to Japan in 1972, it also turned over the administrative control of Diaoyutai to Japan.  Although the US had strategic considerations at the time, it was nevertheless in clear violation of the above-cited Cairo Declaration, the Potsdam Proclamation, and the Japanese Instrument of Surrender.

When the ROC protested at the time, the US replied, in a diplomatic note, that the US took no position on the sovereignty over Diaoyutai, but only turned over the administrative control of Diaoyutai to Japan along with Ryukyu.

This year, the US officially stated that the Mutual Security Treaty between the US and Japan applied to Diaoyutai because it’s under the administrative control of Japan.  This, in my view, is another mistake made by the US as the US was turning over a piece of territory belonging to a victorious state to a defeated state in WWII.   

5)  ROC’s Proposal: East China Sea Peace Initiative

The Republic of China is a peace-loving country, and it believes in peaceful settlement of disputes.

On August 5 this year, President Ma Ying-jeou proposed the East China Sea Initiative.  He reiterated ROC sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Isles and proposed an “East China Sea Peace Initiative,” in the hope that all parties concerned would seriously deal with this territorial dispute as it could have an impact on peace and security in the East China Sea. He said that apart from recognizing the existence of the dispute, all parties concerned should make efforts to shelve disputes and seek peaceful means to settle the issue.

President Ma called on all parties concerned to shelve disputes and resolve the Diaoyutai dispute through peaceful means. He stressed, “A country’s sovereignty cannot be divided, but natural resources can be shared.” He recommended that the countries concerned should together propose a “Code of Conduct in the East China Sea” in order to set up mechanisms of cooperation to develop natural resources in the East China Sea so that it would become a “sea of peace and cooperation.”

President Ma proposed five points in the peace initiative. (1) All parties concerned should show self-restraint so as not to escalate confrontational actions; (2) All parties concerned should shelve disputes and not give up on dialogues; (3) All parties concerned should abide by international law and handle disputes using peaceful means; (4) All parties concerned should seek a consensus and conclude a “Code of Conduct in the East China Sea;” and (5) All parties concerned should establish mechanisms to cooperate in developing natural resources in the East China Sea.

President Ma stated that since the Diaoyutai Isles were Taiwan's affiliated islands, they were, of course, returned along with Taiwan to the ROC, adding that the Diaoyutai Isles were currently under Yilan County’s administrative jurisdiction. He stressed that the ROC-Japan Peace Treaty was unilaterally abrogated by Japan after it established formal diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China in 1972, but this abrogation did not affect the legal effects created as a result of the coming into force of the ROC-Japan Treaty because “the legal effects of a treaty cannot be changed after it came into force.”

In his National Day Message on Oct. 10, President Ma stressed that principles of the East China Sea Peace initiative could also be applied to the South China Sea issues.

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