Taiwan has come out from its years of silence, this time as it tries to find its role in the present heated squabbling on the South China Sea disputes.
Taiwan is one among the Asian countries in the region that is claiming a portion of the South China Sea’s disputed waters and islands. However, its capital Taipei has remained an uninterested participant in the sideline, eclipsed by the power of China’s presence.
As a small and “weak” country like the Philippines brought its claim to the international court at “The Haque”, Chinese Taipei changed its state of self- suppression to a public display of its territorial claim. This time, the Taiwanese government is pro-active in looking at its critical role in the dispute solution.
Looking back in the past, Taiwan used to be active in the South China Sea, particularly in the Spratly’s, when it used to conduct diplomatic negotiations and navy patrols, while press releases in maps, media reports and government documents bombarded the information highway.
Taiwan had control of the Itu Aba islet, which is the biggest natural feature in the Spratly Islands in 1956 known in Taiwan as Taiping Tao or Peace Island.
From then onwards, Taipei had built its airstrip, military and weather forecasting facilities, to include a solar power facility. But it has not done any artificial land building or expansion by reclamation as what Beijing had been doing. The Itu Aba now stands at the “centerpiece of Taiwan’s claim in the area.
While China is aggressive in its actions, and the Philippines defends its rightful claim at the international court, Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou is ready to re-assert its country’s entitlement. In December, President Ma will be in Itu Aba to inaugurate the newly completed port.
Ironically, Taipei is sharing the same claim with China in the Spratly islands. This puts the country in a more difficult and uncertain situation. Although, Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations but Taipei is more likely to stick to the ruling of the international decision.
Taiwan recognizes its position in the dispute, compared to China, it is a small country and does not have the capability to challenge China, but it has awaken and is looking for its place in the issue.