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Ma calls fishery talks ‘important first step’ toward peace in East China Sea

Kyodo

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said in his New Year’s address Tuesday that ongoing fishery talks between Taiwan and Japan are an “important first step” for tackling territorial and maritime boundary disputes in the East China Sea and turning it into a “sea of peace and cooperation.”

Ma said the principle of his “East China Sea Peace Initiative,” which he unveiled last August, is “to shelve disputes over sovereignty and promote the joint exploration of resources.”

“The fishing negotiations currently under way (between Taiwan and Japan) represent an important first step,” he said.

Japan’s relations with Taiwan and China have been tense over the past year due to a territorial dispute over a cluster of islands in the East China Sea which are known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, Tiaoyutai in Taiwan and Diaoyu in China.

To bring about peace in the East China Sea, Ma’s initiative envisages Japan, Taiwan and China initially conducting bilateral talks among each other and gradually moving on to trilateral negotiations on joint development of resources.

In his New Year’s address, Ma also said his government looks forward to working with new leaders of Japan, China and South Korea “to ease tensions so that economic cooperation will once again be the main focus of relations in East Asia, as it should be.”

Ma echoed outgoing Chinese President Hu Jintao, who renewed Beijing’s commitment to peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Strait in his New Year’s address Monday, and pledged “further institutionalization of cross-strait ties” to consolidate peace between the two sides.

He expressed hope that China’s new leader Xi Jinping will give “top priority” to long-term peace across the Taiwan Strait while adhering to the so-called “1992 consensus,” whereby each side acknowledges the existence of “one China” but maintains its own interpretation of what that means.

Taiwan and mainland China have been ruled separately since 1949 when defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of a civil war. The government in Taipei continues to refer to itself as the Republic of China.

Ma promised to accelerate the pace of follow-up negotiations with China under the landmark Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, which came into effect in 2010, “in order to expand and deepen all aspects of cross-strait ties.”

He also pledged to further loosen restrictions on Chinese investments in Taiwan, to allow more Chinese students and independent Chinese travelers to come to the island.

To this end, Ma vowed a complete overhaul of a law governing cross-strait ties, amending it “to eliminate certain out-of-date restrictions and discriminatory provisions.”

He said his government will promote establishment of branch offices of Taiwan’s quasi-official Straits Exchange Foundation in China and its Chinese counterpart, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, in Taiwan “to better serve the needs of the several million people who travel across the Taiwan Strait each year.”