Friday, January 9, 2009

Follow Ups: Taiwan Considering Sending Navy to Somalia

1. Excerpts from Taipei Times "Government still mulling use of anti-piracy frigates":
The Presidential Office yesterday said the government was still considering whether to dispatch naval frigates to Somalia to protect Taiwanese vessels, but said any Taiwanese business or fishing boats facing pirate threats could seek help from nearby naval fleets from other countries.

Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said that more than 40 countries, including China, had naval fleets stationed near the pirate-infested Somalian coast.

Any of them would come to the rescue of a Taiwanese vessel out of moral obligation once it received a distress signal, Wang said...

... While Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Yang Chiung-ying (楊瓊瓔) yesterday said a deployment of naval frigates would be the right decision, KMT Legislator Shuai Hua-min (帥化民) said it was too early to talk about dispatching naval frigates to the Gulf of Aden to protect Taiwanese ships.

It was not an issue of whether the navy was capable of protecting Taiwanese ships, but one of the international community’s attitude toward Taiwan, he said....

...“An invitation for Taiwan to dispatch naval frigates to protect Taiwanese ships from pirates in the waters off Somalia would be welcomed, but it would be a major embarrassment if Taiwan’s offer to do so were rejected,” Shuai said... 

... Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) added that the matter could well serve to test Chinese President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) sincerity when he made a six-point overture to Taiwan on Dec. 31 on the peaceful development of cross-strait ties.
First, the Chinese leader appeared willing to accord a certain degree of recognition to the Taiwanese government. For the sake of advancing cross-strait negotiation, he proposed that "both sides could start discussion on bilateral political relations under the special circumstances that the country is not yet unified".

Hu's words signalled for the first time Beijing's willingness to approach cross-strait relations on the basis that Taiwan is, in effect, governed by a legitimate authority.

It was a positive response to Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou's call last November for 'mutual non-denial'. Hu's move should go some way towards ameliorating, if not resolving, bilateral conflicts since Taipei insists that without mutual recognition it would be dwarfed when it enters into negotiations with Beijing.

Second, Hu called for cross-strait military exchanges leading to the creation of a confidence-building mechanism (CBM) to ensure military stability. This is the first time that Beijing has called for exchanges between the two militaries.

The idea of a CBM was first raised by former Taiwanese president Chen Shui- bian during his first term in office. At the time, Beijing dismissed the proposal on the grounds that CBMs were arrangements between sovereign authorities.

Third, Hu said that the mainland was willing to discuss with Taiwan "proper and reasonable arrangements for Taiwan's participation in international organisations" - as long as such arrangements did not create 'two Chinas' or 'one China, one Taiwan'. In other words, Hu was signalling that Beijing was open to all reasonable suggestions on Taiwan's international participation so long as they do not create false impressions.

Compared with all previous statements on this issue - they had merely expressed an "understanding of the desire of the Taiwanese", or "of the Taiwanese feeling" - the latest is clearly ground-breaking, at least in symbolic if not substantive terms.

Of course, the litmus test of Beijing's sincerity will come in May and September when Taiwan seeks observer status in the World Health Assembly, policy body of WHO, and the United Nations, respectively.

Fourth, Beijing said, for the first time, that it was willing to engage Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Never before has an official document from Beijing ever mentioned the DPP by name. The DPP used to be referred to derogatively as "some separatist forces". This time, Hu promised to "react positively" if the DPP abandoned its independence platform.

The Chinese leader also showed flexibility and tolerance when he said that the Taiwanese people's strong sense of local identity was understandable and should not be equated with separatism.

Finally, on the key 'one China' principle, there was some fine-tuning, with Beijing trying to formulate it in terms more acceptable to Taipei.

Hu said that the two sides not being unified was not a problem of split sovereignty. It was rather a legacy of the civil war in China in the late 1940s, which pitted the Kuomintang against the Chinese Communist Party.

Hence re-unification did not signify the re-creation of China's sovereignty and territorial integrity - which had never been divided to begin with - but an end to the fight between the rival political parties.

As long as both sides preserved 'the 'one China' framework', Hu promised, "anything could be discussed". It is noteworthy that he refrained from insisting on the 'one China principle' in this context, which would have suggested that 'one China' was both the pre-condition as well as the final outcome of cross-strait negotiations.

3. Complete Mandarin overture here.

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