Saturday, June 14, 2014

Neutralizing Contention: A New Policy for Taiping Island and the South China Sea

To create space between its maritime claims and Beijing’s, Taiwan should neutralize Taiping Island 

Rising tensions in the South China Sea between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and other claimants, and the militarization of those disputes, are making Taiwan’s continued sovereignty claim over the nine-dash line untenable. More than ever, as Beijing intensifies its propaganda campaign to encourage the perception that Taiwan and China are cooperating in the defense of “shared” territory and interests in the region, Taipei must present policies that clearly distinguish its aims and means from those adopted by Beijing. 

So what is to be done? The unclear or mixed signals, lack of direction, and self-contradictions that have become a staple of Taiwanese statements in recent years are no longer sufficient. Ambiguity has failed. Taipei must therefore embark on a new path by proposing concrete measures to de-conflict its relationship with other regional claimants and provide alternatives to the ongoing escalations and litigation that can only lead to catastrophe. 

Although it will be some time before Taiwan can fully abandon its claims under the nine-dash line — a legacy of the 1947 Republic of China (ROC) constitution with which it is stuck — it can nevertheless take immediate measures to show its desire to resolve ongoing disputes. One first step would be to neutralize Taiping Island (Itu Aba, 太平島). 

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.

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