TAIPEI – Taipei, Tokyo and Beijing should shelve their sovereignty dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and engage in a three-way dialogue on resource development near the territory, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou said in an interview Thursday regarding the Japan-controlled islets.
“The East China Sea Peace Initiative is not designed for one single party or two, but for three,” Ma said. “A peaceful resolution to the dispute will only benefit us all.”
Ma said he would never attempt to start trilateral talks before “bilateral negotiations bear fruit,” adding that trilateral talks are currently “unfeasible.”
“If bilateral negotiations produce concrete results, maybe it is time to consider three-way dialogues,” he said.
Regarding the joint development of East China Sea resources, Ma proposed a peaceful settlement last August, with Taiwan, Japan and China conducting talks within a bilateral framework.
“The peace initiative concerns three sides and the dispute can never be settled if one of the three parties is left out,” Ma said, stressing the need for trilateral talks in the future.
“We believe the territorial dispute can be shelved and resources can be shared,” he said. “Territorial disputes are hard to tackle, but if a territorial dispute is linked to resources, it may be easier to address.”
Ma said bilateral talks could serve as a basis for future trilateral talks on joint resource development.
“All parties concerned must take a pragmatic approach to the issue,” he said, adding it is the only way to ease tensions in the region and ensure peace and stability.
The Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands are known as Tiaoyutai in Taiwan and Diaoyu in China, both of which claim the islets Japan put under its control in 1895.
In Tokyo later in the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga rejected Ma’s call for a three-way dialogue.
“The Senkaku Islands are an inherent part of Japan’s territory. There’s no doubt about that in terms of history and international law,” he told a news conference.
“Japan will not accept such remarks based on Taiwan’s claim,” Suga said, reiterating, “There has been no territorial dispute to be resolved over the Senkakus.”
But he added, “We haven’t changed our stance that Japan will promote concrete cooperation with neighboring countries and regions to ensure peace and security in the East China Sea.”
Tokyo agreed in April with Taipei let Taiwanese fishing boats operate in Japan’s exclusive economic zone around the islets, known as good grounds for tuna. It triggered criticism from China, which had called for cooperation with Taiwan in the territorial dispute.