Japan's foreign minister Koichiro Genba (Photo/Xinhua)
While the conflict with China over the disputed Diaoyu, or Senkaku, Islands escalates, Koichiro Genba, the Japanese foreign minister delivered the first official message to Taiwan since normalization of relations with China in 1972 on Oct. 5 calling for a peaceful settlement over the East China Sea, reports by Taipei-based Broadcasting Corporation of China.
Although the cluster of uninhabited rocks and islets is also claimed by Taiwan, whose official name is the Republic of China, as the Diaoyutais, Genba through the Interchange Association of Japan suggested to Taiwan both nations shelve the territorial issue for the moment and focus on negotiations surrounding fishery rights. In response, Steve Shia, spokesman of Taiwan's foreign ministry, said that the East China Sea Peace Initiative put forward by President Ma Ying-jeou has been accepted by the Japanese government. This cleared the way for Taiwan and Japan to begin their dialogue in a peaceful and rational atmosphere even though Japan itself must define the meaning of "unsettled issue", according to Shia.
Even though Legislators from both the ruling and opposition parties questioned the Japanese side's sincerity, officials from the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs' association of East Asian Relations in Japan stated that a certain degree of good intention was shown by Tokyo. In the absence of formal diplomatic ties between the two nations, a message sent from Japan's foreign minister was welcomed by the Taiwanese official.
Professor Ho Szu-shen of Fu Jen Catholic University stated that the concessions made by the Japanese government to Taiwan were only to head off anti-Japanese sentiment from spreading to Taiwan, which was once considered staunchly pro-Japan. It is also a policy aimed at protecting Japanese nationals currently in the country. Ho told Taiwan's Central News Agency that leaving the territorial issue aside will not help Taiwanese fishermen gain their fishing rights. Japan must recognize that there is a dispute between Taiwan and Japan over the islands before discussing any cooperation, according to Ho. "Japan started the conflict by purchasing those islands, and by now they do not recognize a territorial dispute exists," stressed Ho.
Lim Chuan-tiong, an academic ,told the Hong Kong-based Ming Pao that the message Genba delievered to Taiwan should be viewed as a Tokyo's gambit of preventing Taipei from cooperating with Beijing. Through sending Taiwanese fishing boats to the disputed waters under the protection of the ROC Coast Guard on Sept. 25, Lim pointed out that Ma Ying-jeou had successfully gained the attention he wanted from Japan. Liang Yunxiang from Peking University shared similar view. Because it would be unwise for Japan to challenge the territorial claims of China and Taiwan in the same time, the only choice left for Tokyo was to seek cooperation from Ma. By allowing Taiwanese fishermen to conduct some degree of fishing activities in the disputed waters, Tokyo is trying to force Taipei into making concessions on the issue of sovereignty, according to Liang.
Steve Shia 夏季昌
Ho Szu-shen 何思慎
Lim Chuan-tiong 林泉忠
Liang Yunxiang 梁雲祥