TAIPEI – Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said Monday that former President Lee Teng-hui should apologize to the Taiwanese public for claiming that Japan is the lawful owner of the Senkaku Islands.
Ma said in a letter to the editor published in the Monday edition of the Chinese-language China Times that it is his presidential duty to safeguard the sovereignty and fishing rights of the Senkaku Islands.
The islands are controlled by Japan but claimed by Taiwan and China. Taiwan calls them Tiaoyutai, while China uses the name Diaoyu.
Entitled “Tiaoyutai Islands are no doubt the territory of the Republic of China,” the article states that the islands belong to the Republic of China, the official name of Taiwan, in terms of history, geography, geology and international law.
“No matter if it is the former president of the ROC or future ones, they must not betray the nation’s sovereignty,” he said.
Ma said that when Taiwan and Japan signed a bilateral fisheries pact in April 2013, Taiwan “not only stood firm on national sovereignty, but also significantly advanced fishing rights.”
The fisheries agreement allows Taiwanese fishing trawlers to operate within Japan’s exclusive economic zone near the Senkaku Islands.
The pact does not touch on the issue of sovereignty. The two sides have established a joint fisheries committee to continue negotiating various unresolved issues, including fishing operations in overlapping exclusive economic zones outside the designated area.
Lee said during his trip to Japan last month that the Senkaku Islands belong to Japan, and that many Taiwanese people praised Japan’s rule of Taiwan from 1895 to 1945.
New Party Chairman Yu Mu-ming has filed a criminal complaint against Lee, arguing that his remarks constitute an act of treason.
Lawmakers from the ruling Kuomintang party have threatened to amend related laws to strip Lee of his preferential treatment as a retired president.
Presidential Office Spokesman Charles Chen said Monday that Ma felt “deeply regretful” that Lee, who was president for 12 years, has incoherent positions on national sovereignty.
Lee, Taiwan’s first directly elected president, led the self-ruled island from January 1988 to May 2000.
Taiwan and mainland China have been governed separately since they split amid a civil war in 1949. Beijing has since endeavored to diplomatically isolate Taiwan, which it regards as a renegade province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
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