Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba refused the proposal for an East China Sea peace initiative set forth by Taiwanese leader Ma Ying-jeou. According to Gemba, the disputed Diaoyu Islands are an inherent part of Japanese territory and no territorial issue exists.
Japan's statement was a blow to Taiwanese authorities who seek to position themselves well by proposing a peace initiative. They want to cozy up to Japan and claim sovereignty at the same time. However, this intention was not appreciated by Japan.
At this point, Taiwan authorities should come to the conclusion that they should have no illusions about Japan over the Diaoyu Islands.
Geographically, the Diaoyu Islands are very important to Taiwan. If Japan occupies the Diaoyu Islands, it could block the channel through which the Chinese navy could enter the Pacific as well as guarding against Taiwan. Japan will also gain a monopoly of fishery, oil and mineral resources in surrounding areas.
Both the Chinese mainland and Taiwan will suffer from the loss of the Diaoyu Islands.
In the 1970s, movements to protect the Diaoyu Islands were carried out vigorously in Taiwan. Ma Ying-jeou chose "Legal Problems of Seabed Boundary Delimitation in the East China Sea" as the topic of his PhD dissertation. But nowadays, Taiwanese authorities are seeking to evade the dispute, leaving the Chinese mainland to fight alone. The two sides of the Taiwan Straits have not cooperated closely enough to counter Japan's ambition.
Taiwan authorities should realize that there is only one China and that their fates are linked, as is their power.
The Taiwanese leadership should be cool-headed and recognize that the Taiwan question is not included in US national core interests. The US seeks to prevent the Chinese from entering the Pacific instead of helping to achieve "Taiwan independence."
The Taiwan question remains a trump card for the US. The US can discard this card whenever necessary for its own interests. Whatever Japan's intentions, it is clear that future relations across the Taiwan straits will remain more reliable than any ties Taiwan can build with Japan.
Faced with a severe situation developing around the Diaoyu Islands dispute, both sides across the Straits should join together in responding to provocations by Japan. Taiwan should give up any illusions it has about gaining any ground with. It should see that its best interests lie in working together with the mainland to protect the Diaoyu Islands.
The author is associate professor of ocean politics and strategy at Guangdong Ocean University. firstname.lastname@example.org