Taiwan Offers Peace Plan for South China Sea

26 May, 2015

Taiwan's president has offered a plan to ease tensions in the South China Sea. Ma Ying-jeou announced the plan on Tuesday. It calls for cooperation among governments that claim all or parts of the South China Sea.

Mr. Ma proposed the peace plan at an Asia-Pacific research conference in Taipei. He appealed to those with claims to the South China Sea to end their territorial disputes and work together on resource exploration.

"We emphasize that sovereignty cannot be divided, resources can be shared, thereby replacing sovereignty disputes with resources sharing."

The South China Sea is said to be rich in oil, natural gas and fisheries.

Taiwan Offers Peace Plan for South China Sea
Chinese dredging vessels are seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. This is a still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy, May 21, 2015. (REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters)

The plan suggests that no nation take action on its own that could increase tensions. Taiwan and five other governments claim the 3.5 million square-kilometer South China Sea. The sea stretches from the south coast of Taiwan to Singapore.

Increased tensions

Tensions have increased over the past year and especially over the past few weeks, partly because of Chinese territorial claims to the area. China has taken steps to enlarge and develop several coral reefs. Observers say the development could be useful for China's armed forces.

Last week, the Chinese government made an official protest to the United States after an American spy plane flew over one small island in the South China Sea. U.S. officials say the American planes are gathering intelligence about the development of the islands. They say the flights are happening in international airspace, which China does not control.

Japan has also grown more active as it competes with China over rights to the East China Sea. In July, Japan will send 40 troops to a military exercise with the United States and Australia. It will be the first time Japanese soldiers have taken part in such an exercise. The Japanese government has also offered defense aid to Vietnam and the Philippines. Those two countries and China, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia claim all or parts of the South China Sea.

A Taiwan proposal

Mr. Ma's plan would establish systems to let different countries use the sea for humanitarian assistance, environmental protection and aid for disasters. In 2012, he proposed a peace process for settling disputes in the East China Sea, parts of which are claimed by Taiwan, China and Japan.

VOA spoke to Joanna Lei about Mr. Ma's plan. She leads the Chunghua 21st Century Think Tank in Taiwan.

"It is the least a president can do and should do. If everyone else discusses regional events and interests, at least you should state your claim."

The announcement on Tuesday demonstrates Mr. Ma's Nationalist Party's foreign policy experience to Taiwanese voters. Elections are to take place in January. But the peace plan is not likely to produce a reaction outside of Taiwan because the country has no official diplomatic ties with the countries that claim the South China Sea.

The Chinese government claims control of Taiwan. It has used its economic influence to ask that other countries avoid actions that would make Taiwan appear to be independent.

I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.

Correspondent Ralph Jennings reported this story from Taiwan. George Grow adapted it for VOA Learning English. Christopher Jones-Cruise was the editor.


Words in This Story

resourcen. a place or thing that proves useful

sovereigntyn. self-rule; the right to govern one's self

enlargev. to make something larger

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