Monday, November 19, 2012

A Bump in the Road for Taiwan and Japan, but Little More

Taiwanese fishing vessels head for the Diaoyutais
Historical ties with Japan and disinterest among Taiwanese in the Diaoyutai issue will make it difficult for Ma to take action that can truly harm the relationship 

Although its voice is often ignored in the escalating spat over the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, Taiwan reacted with uncharacteristic bombast to the Japanese government’s purchase of three islets in the disputed island chain in September. The response reached unprecedented levels with a high-profile “sea protest” involving dozens of Taiwanese fishing vessels, accompanied by several Coast Guard Administration ships, during which CGA officers engaged in a water cannon battle with their Japanese counterparts. The sequence of events, combined with the hardened rhetoric in Taipei, has raised fears of souring relations between Taiwan and Japan, and attracted speculation about possible co-operation between Taipei and Beijing in “defending” territory they both claim as their own. 

A closer look at Taiwan’s idiosyncratic role in the triumvirate, however, shows that, rather than clearly taking sides, Taipei is playing a difficult, and perhaps perilous, balancing act. 

My article, published in the current issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief, continues here. The full issue can be accessed here.

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