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Strategic Vision vol. 5, no. 28 (September, 2016)

Constructive Engagement ROC dispute settlement provides lessons for rival South China Sea claimants Jonathan Spangler


or all the criticism the President Ma Yingjeou administration received for its handling of cross-strait relations, the economy, and other issues, it played its cards remarkably well in the context of the South China Sea maritime territorial disputes. Its multifaceted approach included (1) a reassertion of its claims based on the map issued by the ROC government in 1947; (2) strategic ambiguity in terms of its entitlements within the map’s eleven-dash line; (3) commitment to abiding by the principles of international maritime law, including UNCLOS; (4) emphasis on its role as a peacemaker

in the region and concrete policy actions to support its rhetoric and proposals; (5) rejection of the international arbitration case initiated by the Philippines, in which Taipei was unable to formally participate; and (6) an increasingly vociferous push to demonstrate and publicize that, from both scientific and legal perspectives, Itu Aba (Taiping) Island is indeed an island in response to Manila’s claims to the contrary and an arbitral tribunal’s conclusion on the matter. Following her landslide victory on January 16, 2016, and inauguration on May 20, 2016, President Tsai Ing-wen has maintained major aspects of this suc-

photo: ROC Presidential Office President Tsai Ing-wen attends a commissioning ceremony for a new coast guard cutter. The Coast Guard plays a key role in ROC maritime initiatives.

Jonathan Spangler is the Director of the South China Sea Think Tank and a Doctoral Fellow with the Institute of European and American Studies at Academia Sinica. He can be reached at