Taiwan Minister of Foreign Affairs David Y.L. Lin reaffirmed national sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Archipelago Oct. 18, urging Japan to resolve disputes in accordance with the government’s East China Sea peace initiative.
“The Diaoyutai Islands actually form an inherent part of the territory of the ROC based on the islands’ geographical location, geological structure, relevant historical evidence, and international law,” Lin said. “Japan’s claim over the islands simply does not stand up to close scrutiny.”
Lin, who made the remarks in his commentary carried by respected U.S. publication Foreign Policy, described Tokyo’s Sept. 11 move to “nationalize” three islets in the Diaoyutais as raising tensions in East Asia.
“Japan’s claim of sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands by virtue of ‘discovery-occupation’ under international law is invalid ab initio [from the onset], as such claims can only be made to terra nullius [land without owner].”
According to Lin, the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) was forced to cede the Diaoyutais and other territories to Japan as per Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895. But these territories were all returned to the ROC after WWII based on the Cairo and Postdam declarations, the Instrument of Surrender of Japan, the San Francisco Treaty, and the Treaty of Peace between the ROC and Japan, he added.
Given recent events, Lin said, the best way forward for Japan is to embrace the initiative and join in forging a path of coexistence and mutual prosperity.
Proposed Aug. 5 by ROC President Ma Ying-jeou, the five-point plan urges all parties to refrain from antagonistic actions; not abandon dialogue; observe international law; resolve disputes through peaceful means; and form a mechanism for exploring and developing resources on a cooperative basis.
Separately, Randall G. Schriver, former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, praised Taiwan for taking concrete actions to resolve Diaoyutais disputes Oct. 17 during a seminar hosted by Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Schriver said while Japan and the U.S. are facing domestic pressure with elections on the horizon, Taiwan has more flexibility in managing the issue by leveraging claims of sovereignty and fishing rights.
In his address at the seminar, former MOFA Deputy Minister Stephen S.F. Chen called on Japan to recognize the existence of a sovereignty dispute over the Diaoyutais and enter into dialogue as outlined by the initiative.
“Although some see it as all a tall order for Taiwan, Japan and mainland China to hold trilateral talks on the issue, they could start less ambitiously and embark upon unofficial consultations through intermediary organizations,” Chen said.
The Diaoyutais are an uninhabited archipelago located roughly 170 kilometers northeast of Taiwan proper. The island group is historically attached to the ROC and includes Diaoyutai Island and the islets of Huangwei and Chiwei.