Page 1



September, 2013

America On Side How the region’s security guarantor is responding to maritime disputes

Aaron Jensen China Feeling the Heat Dustin Wang

for Taiwan Security w

ISSN 2227-3646

The Guang Da Xing Incident and International Law John Chao & Laurence Lin Taiwan-Philippines Diplomatic Row Marites Dañguilan Vitug Dispute-Resolution Lessons for Taipei J. Michael Cole Sino-Indian Contest for Primacy Gregory Coutaz Yonaguni lsland Seeks Development Taro Kurokawa Understanding China’s Motivations Dean Karalekas


for Taiwan Security


September, 2013

Contents The US response to Asian maritime disputes.................................4

Aaron Jensen

Perceived containment and the security dillemma......................10

Dustin Wang

The Guang Da Xing incident and international law..................... 16

John Chao & Laurence Lin

Taiwan-Philippine political dispute spills over............................22

Marites Dañguilan Vitug

Lessons from Taipei’s handling of the dispute..............................28

J. Michael Cole

Giants compete in the Indian Ocean............................................34

Gregory Coutaz

Yonaguni Island seeks developmental path................................. 40

Taro Kurokawa

Interpreting China’s actions in maritime disputes.......................48

Dean Karalekas

Submissions: Essays submitted for publication are not to exceed 2,000 words in length, and should conform to the following basic format for each 1200-1600 word essay: 1. Synopsis, 100-200 words; 2. Background description, 100-200 words; 3. Analysis, 800-1,000 words; 4. Policy Recommendations, 200-300 words. Book reviews should not exceed 1,200 words in length. Notes should be formatted as endnotes and should be kept to a minimum. Authors are encouraged to submit essays and reviews as attachments to emails; Microsoft Word documents are preferred. For questions of style and usage, writers should consult the Chicago Manual of Style. Authors of unsolicited manuscripts are encouraged to consult with the executive editor at before formal submission via email. Manuscripts are subject to copyediting, both mechanical and substantive, as required and according to editorial guidelines. No major alterations may be made by an author once the type has been set. Arrangements for reprints should be made with the editor. Cover photograph of the USS George Washington underway in the South China Sea is courtesy of MCC Jennifer A. Villalovos.

Editor Fu-Kuo Liu

From The Editor

Executive Editor Dean Karalekas

e are very pleased to bring you our first special issue, this one highlighting the maritime disputes in the Asian region, with a special focus on the recent incident involving the killing of a fisherman aboard the Taiwanese fishing vessel Guang Da Xing No. 28 by members of the Philippine Coast Guard, with analyses of various aspects of the incident and its aftermath. For a general overview of the state of maritime disputes in the Asia-Pacific, we have two articles covering the American and Chinese perspectives. We begin with Aaron Jensen’s look at the American position on the region’s disputes and the measures Washington is taking, along with its regional allies, to ensure littoral security and freedom of navigation. Dustin Wang examines the Chinese response to these actions, and to the overall US policy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific, and how Beijing’s fears of encirclement could add to the security dilemma in the region. Kuo-Tsai John Chao and Wen-lung Laurence Lin offer the first of three articles that tackle the issue of the Guang Da Xing No. 28 incident, and how precedents in international law apply in this case. To offer a Philippine perspective on the incident and its aftermath, we are pleased to have a contribution from Marites Dañguilan Vitug, who looks at the diplomatic row and how it was perceived in the Philippines. J. Michael Cole follows this up with an examination of the government’s handling of the diplomatic standoff over the Guang Da Xing incident, and offers policy recommendations on how to learn from this crisis to better deal with future such occurrences. Gregory Coutaz analyzes the power rivalry in the Indian Ocean and how both India and China are working on developing blue-water navies, while Taro Kurokawa provides us with a case study of one small island, Japan’s Yonaguni, and the difficulties it faces as it tries to seek means of economic development in the difficult political seas of East Asia. Finally, Dean Karalekas brings us full circle with an analysis of China’s increasingly aggressive behaviour in the Asian littoral and what motivates it. We truly hope you enjoy this supplemental issue of Strategic Vision, and that you find our coverage of the regional maritime disputes to be fair, well-rounded and informative.

Editorial Board Tiehlin Yen Raviprasad Narayanan Richard Hu Felix Wang Lipin Tien Laurence Lin STRATEGIC VISION For Taiwan Security (ISSN 2227-3646) Special Edition Number 1, September, 2013, published under the auspices of the Center for Security Studies and National Defense University. All editorial correspondence should be mailed to the editor at STRATEGIC VISION, Center for Security Studies in Taiwan. No. 64, Wan Shou Road, Taipei City 11666, Taiwan, ROC. The editors are responsible for the selection and acceptance of articles; responsibility for opinions expressed and accuracy of facts in articles published rests solely with individual authors. The editors are not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts; unaccepted manuscripts will be returned if accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed return envelope. Photographs used in this publication are used courtesy of the photographers, or through a creative commons licence. All are attributed appropriately. Any inquiries please contact the Executive Editor directly via email at: issues and archives can be viewed at our website: © Copyright 2013 by the Center for Security Studies. Articles in this periodical do not necessarily represent the views of either the MCSS, NDU, or the editors.


Dr. Fu-Kuo Liu Editor Strategic Vision

against rising tide

US Position and Response to Asian Maritime Disputes by Aaron Jensen


ith its rising power and rapidly growing military might, The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is seeking to assert its maritime interests and alter the status quo in the Western Pacific. Among China’s goals are the desire to create a buffer zone between itself and US Pacific forces, and lay claim to the vast maritime resources in the South China Sea (SCS). In pursuing these objectives, the PRC challenges important US policies. First, China does not recognize the free passage of foreign military vessels within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This has become a seriPhotograph from the International Space Station of the South China Sea which includes the Eldad Reef and Itu Aba Island features.

4  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

ous point of contention between the United States and China. Secondly, the PRC lays claim to large areas of the South China Sea and East China Sea. Its increasingly aggressive posturing in these areas raises concerns over the potential for clashes with American allies. As the world’s dominant naval power, the United States has accepted, and enforced, the position of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that military ships and aircraft can operate inside of another country’s EEZ. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union, as well as the United States and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries, abided by these standards. Today, however, the PRC, along with several other nations, does not recognize the right of foreign military vessels to traverse its EEZ. This disagreement has caused a significant amount of friction between the United States and China. In April of 2001, a US EP-3E ARIES II signals intelligence aircraft was intercepted by a pair of Chinese J-8II fighter jets, one of which collided with the surveillance plane in mid-air. Prior to this collision, Chinese pilots had been engaging in increasingly unsafe behavior during their intercepts of US reconnaissance flights, ostensibly, this behavior was intended to deter and protest US surveillance flights. Beginning in 2001, the US oceanographic survey ship, USNS Bowditch, was harassed over half a dozen times in three years by Chinese ships as it operated in the Yellow Sea. In 2009, the American surveillance ship USNS Impeccable was likewise harassed by Chinese vessels as it conducted sonar mapping in the vicinity of Hainan Island. It was reported that one of the Chinese ships even went so far as to attempt to cut the cable on the Impeccable’s towed array sonar.

The second major policy difference between the United States and China concerns the PRC’s extensive maritime claims and future intentions, in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. Delineated by the famous “nine-dash line,” China’s claims in the region infringe on the EEZs of several Southeast Asian countries. The Philippines, one of China’s primary disputants, has a mutual defense treaty with the United States. According to Article 5 of this treaty, island territories under the jurisdiction of the Philippines are also included in the defense agreement. Another cause for anxiety over China’s claims in the SCS is the degree of ambiguity over the details of these claims, and distrust regarding Beijing’s future intentions in the region. Some scholars have noted that China does not take a clear position on exactly what its claims in the SCS actually entail. At times, China appears to limit its claims to islands and reef structures that lie within the nine-dash line. At other times, China appears to take a more aggressive position and lays claim to vast areas of the SCS as Chinese territorial waters. In an April 2011 response to Philippine diplomatic protests, China argued that it maintains sovereignty over all of the Spratly Islands, and that these islands are also entitled to a territorial sea, an EEZ, and a continental shelf. Under Article 121 of UNCLOS, only inhabitable islands are entitled to a territorial sea and an EEZ. Although many of the reefs and islands in the SCS have historically been uninhabited, China and other claimants in the area have been developing these small islands into permanently manned outposts. China recently raised the administrative status of Woody Island (Yongxing

photo: NASA Summer 2013 Special Issue  5

Island) after building up the island’s harbor, airport, and habitation facilities. Due to China’s interest in the region’s oil reserves, it will likely continue to fortify any islands that it occupies, and subsequently argue for territorial and EEZ rights.

Strategic buffer Given that China has attempted to restrict US military activity in its current EEZ, it could similarly attempt to restrict military activity in the SCS as it seeks to fortify island structures and establish EEZs around these islands. Chinese interests in the region may go beyond the quest for natural resources. Scholars such as Tetsuo Kotani, a fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs, have argued that China views the SCS as a strategic buffer, and for this reason, further seeks to prevent foreign militaries from operating in the region. In response to China’s attempts to restrict US military activity in its EEZ, and its expansive claims in the SCS, high-level American officials have issued a

series of strong and consistent statements regarding US support for freedom of navigation. Speaking at an Asian security meeting in Hanoi in 2010, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that a peaceful resolution of territorial disputes in the SCS is in the national interest of the United States. She also voiced support for a multilateral solution to the problem and restated US concern for freedom of navigation. While visiting Tokyo the following year, then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates cited China’s attempt to restrict foreign military vessels from its EEZ as one of the reasons why the United States and Japan should strengthen military cooperation. He stated that Washington completely rejected Beijing’s position and that it was impossible for the United States to compromise with China on this issue. More recently, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, stated that the United States will not tolerate attempts by any country to change the status quo in the SCS or in the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands

China continues to develop the harbor, airport, and habitation facilities on Woody, or Yongxing, Island.


6  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

photo: White House (Pete Souza) General James Jones, Admiral Michael Mullen, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confer aboard Marine One on Dec. 1, 2009 as President Barack Obama, left, reads.

(Diaoyutai Islands). In 2012, during a White House visit by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, US President Barack Obama offered a strong show of support to Manila when he called for freedom of navigation in the SCS and the peaceful resolution of disputes in the area. As part of the Obama Administration’s Pivot to Asia, the United States is taking several key steps to strengthen its military position in the Western Pacific. These moves provide the military muscle to support US diplomatic initiatives and are aimed at countering China’s actions and intentions in the region. One of the key developments in US strategy has been to foster military cooperation

between its Asia-Pacific allies. In doing so, the United States is moving away from its traditional “hub and spoke” system to a more collective, coalition approach to security. To achieve this end, US military exercises in the Pacific often include several participants. In 2010, the US held a naval exercise with Japan and Australia A crewmember on a Chinese trawler uses a grapple hook in an apparent attempt to snag the towed acoustic array of the USNS Impeccable.

photo: US Navy

Summer 2013 Special Issue  7

in the South China Sea. In 2012, the Australian Air Force joined the United States and Japan in the Cope North exercise near Guam. In 2013, South Korea took part in Cope North for the first time, and future plans call for the participation of New Zealand and the Philippines. As noted in the August, 2013 issue of Strategic Vision, recent years’ Balikatan Exercises between the United States and the Philippines have come to include a growing number of participants, including Japan, Korea, Australia, and even, in a limited capacity, China itself.

Embedded allies In yet another major step toward cooperative security, the Australian guided-missile frigate HMAS Sydney was embedded with the George Washington Carrier Strike Group based in Yokosuka, Japan. Significantly, given that the USS George Washington would likely be involved in a conflict over the Diaoyutai Islands, Australian forces would also be fighting alongside the United States and Japan. While fostering cooperation among Asia-Pacific allies, US military exercises conducted in conjunction with its allies are also becoming more elaborate and scenario-oriented. The recent US-Japan amphibious assault exercise, dubbed Dawn Blitz 2013, marked a step forward for Japanese strategy as operations to recapture an occupied island were not previously part of their defense scenarios. Additionally, it was also the first time that the ground, naval and air branches

of the Japanese self-defense force exercised together. In the 2012 Cope North exercises in Guam, elements of the Japanese and Australian air forces joined their

“Although Taiwan has not been directly involved in recent US maritime security plans, it has been an important contributor to maritime stability and security in the region.”

American counterparts in large force employment training, strike mission training, and dissimilar air combat training. The exercise also included “opposing force” fighters from the US Air Force 18th Aggressor Squadron at Eielson AFB in Alaska. Finally, the US military is forging new relationships, and invigorating long-standing partnerships to increase its access to harbors and airfields in the Western Pacific. During a 2012 visit to Vietnam, US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta noted that future access to Cam Ranh Bay was vital to the US Navy as it shifts more forces to the Pacific. The Philippine government also allowed the US to use its former military bases, Subic Bay and Clark Air Base, as long as it has prior approval from the Philippine government. More recently, the Philippine government announced that it was also planning to include Japanese forces in the agreement. Although much of this access

Marines with 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, are dropped off by V-22 Ospreys during exercise Dawn Blitz 2013.

photo: Cpl. Ali Azimi 8  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

photo: MC3 Paul Kelly Aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), the centerpiece of Carrier Strike Group 5, sails through calm seas near Guam at sunset.

is not permanent, it will allow the US military and its allies to have greater flexibility in the region and to better respond to future crises.

Playing a larger part The government of the Republic of China (ROC) should seek ways to leverage its strengths and take a more active role in multinational efforts to ensure stability on the region’s waters. Although Taiwan has not been directly involved in recent US maritime security plans, it has been an important contributor to maritime stability and security in the region. In April, the ROC and Japan signed a fisheries agreement which significantly lowered tensions over the Diaoyutai (Senkaku) Islands by expanding access to the region for Taiwanese fishermen. The ROC and the Philippines are also working toward a similar agreement following the tragic shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman in an area claimed by both sides. These

successes should be just the beginning. In view of Taiwan’s constructive efforts in maritime disputes, and its overall weight in the region, Walter Lohman, director of Asian studies at the Washingtonbased Heritage Foundation, argued that the ROC should be included in the regional diplomatic architecture. Although Beijing’s protests may keep the ROC out of regional security talks, it must nevertheless seek to raise its international profile by taking a more active role in such negotiations, not just for the expanded space that this would afford Taipei on the international stage, but for the protection of the rights and security of Taiwanese vessels and citizens, particularly its fishermen, whose livelihood depends on it. Taiwan’s neighbors and the United States would undoubtedly welcome its constructive contributions to Asian security, and Taipei would have a stronger position from which to negotiate with Beijing. b About the author Aaron Jensen is a graduate student at National Chengchi University who served as an officer in the United States Air Force for seven years. He can be reached at:

Summer 2013 Special Issue  9

Feeling Hemmed In As Western powers fear the ‘China threat,’ Beijing in turn perceives its own encirclment, leading to a dangerously potent security dillemma


he past few years have seen an increase in heated exchanges over the Diaoyutai/ Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea claimed by China, Taiwan and Japan; as well as the South China Sea’s Spratly Islands, claimed by China, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei. A common criticism is that China is pressing its maritime claims through coercion and intimidation of its neighbors. However, the distrust between China and the United States might also play an important role in the development of the security situation in the region. This distrust only serves to make a bad situation worse. The Chinese side blames the Obama Administration’s “rebalancing strategy” for emboldening US allies, such as Japan and the Philippines, to stand up to China as Beijing presses what it considers its sovereignty or “core interests” in the region. There is growing concern in the United States about what are viewed as China’s more assertive policies toward some of its neighbors on territorial and maritime issues. These policies have resulted in some countries in the region seeking closer ties with the United States in the hopes of balancing a rising China. On the one hand, there are those in the United States who view this as a test of US credibility in the region. On the other hand, Beijing perceives it as an effort to constrain China’s rise. Although US administration officials as well as the US military have repeatedly expressed the refrain that China is not the target of the rebalancing policy, some analysts conclude that the idea behind the pivot is to ring China with the forces of the United States and 10  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

by Dustin Wang

its allies, just like the West did to the Soviet Union back in the Cold War. In a recent interview with Foreign Policy magazine, General Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, commander, Pacific Air Forces, revealed that the US Air Force would be dispatching “fighters, tankers, and at some point in the future, maybe bombers on a rotational basis,” to Australia. This deployment would further

include sending jets to Singapore’s Changi East air base, Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, and sites in India, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, according to the Foreign Policy report. “One of the main tenets of our strategy is to expand engagement and interoperability and integration … Antropomorphized animals representing the Western powers fight over a sleeping dragon, China. From a political cartoon dating to the early 20th century.

tionalizing the territory and further legalizing jurisdiction. However, China was prepared to respond to Japan’s actions. The day before the islands’ nationalization, Beijing issued a straight baseline claim that defined for the first time the exact extent of its claim. Two groups of formations making up the Diaoyutai/Senkaku Islands are separately assigned the coordinates for base points. In graphic: Evan Centanni ( the first, 12 of Beijing’s with our friends’ and partners’ militaries,” Carlisle coordinates are located on Diaoyu Dao and six other explained. neighboring islets. In the second island group, five Given the number and locations of planned deploycoordinates are assigned to the area surrounding ments, it is little wonder that China—always afraid Chiwei Yu. Straight lines connected between those of encirclement—feels threatened and is interpretpoints to construct a baseline system surrounding ing the US rebalancing as an effort at containment. the Diaoyutai/Senkaku Islands. The recent escalation of tensions between China On September 21, 2012, China deposited to the and Japan in the East China Sea is especially worUnited Nations a chart and of a list of geographical risome in this context. Moreover, with so many opcoordinates as contained in the “Statement of the posing forces in such close proximity, the likelihood Government of the People’s Republic of China on of a conflict developing out of a misunderstanding the Baselines of the Territorial Sea of Diaoyu Dao is only raised by the differing perceptions between and its Affiliated Islands.” Washington and Beijing as to which side is responsible for these tensions. Basis in Chinese law The East China Sea islands in question are claimed by China (where they are called Diaoyu), Japan The statement begins by pointing out that the in(where they are called Senkaku), and Taiwan (where cluded baselines are in accordance with the Law of they are now referred to as Diaoyutai). On September the People’s Republic of China on Territorial Sea and 11, 2012, the government of Japanese signed a contract Contiguous Zone dated February 25, 1992, Article 2 with the private owner of several of the islands, naof which claims that the Diaoyutai/Senkaku Islands 12  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

Chinese and Japanese Coast Guard ships sail in close proximity to one another near the Diaoyutai/Senkaku Islands in late September 2012.

(and other associated islands) are part of China’s territory. Article 3 of the Chinese law further provides that “the method of straight baselines composed of all the straight lines joining the adjacent base points shall be employed in drawing the baselines of the territorial sea of the People’s Republic of China.” These articles express several positions: firstly, that a straight baseline system is utilized as the basis for claiming territorial seas; and secondly, the water area enclosed by the straight baselines is China’s internal waters. In accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the maritime area within the straight baselines connected between those coordinates could be seen as internal waimage: UN ters. It is noteworthy

that the legal status of the internal water is equal to land territory under UNCLOS. Obviously China has to enhance its marine capabilities in order to fulfill its intention of enforcing these claims. It is necessary to view China’s actions in the East China Sea and the South China Sea as a whole. In the latter, there are a couple of developments that The chart illustrating China’s straight baseline claim deposited with the United Nations on September 21, 2012.

Summer 2013 Special Issue  13

should not be overlooked, especially the establishment of Sansha City on July 24, 2012. The city and the garrison posted there demonstrate that the Chinese government is deliberately escalating its coercive diplomacy directed at the other claimants in the South China Sea, especially Vietnam. Sansha City is a signal to those states that China perceives as infringing on its maritime sovereignty—which includes the Spratly Islands, the Paracels, Macclesfield Bank, Scarborough Shoal, Mischief Reef, and Reed Bank—as well as its sovereignty rights—including fishing, oil exploration and other efforts to extract natural resources.

More assertive This would suggest that the Chinese response to counterclaims in the future might likely be even more assertive, especially when its military capabilities are improving and such capabilities could be transferred to its marine enforcement agencies. There are at least five government agencies involved in marine enforcement and governance in China, namely China Marine Surveillance under the State

Oceanic Administration; The China Coast Guard under the Ministry of Public Security; the China Maritime Safety Administration of the Ministry of Transport; the China Fisheries Law Enforcement

“Restructuring and integration will provide China with a much better ability to support its various maritime claims.” Command under the Ministry of Agriculture; and the ships of the General Administration of Customs. Until recently, each agency has enjoyed relative autonomy in its operations when dealing with marine affairs, leading to criticisms of excessive redundancy in the face of complicated maritime disputes with neighboring countries in the waters surrounding China, as well as in the East and South China seas. It is thus reasonable thinking for Beijing to have restructured, or more specifically unified, the country’s disparate maritime law enforcement forces under one command. All the better to guarantee China’s marine rights and enhance its seaborne law enforcement capacity.

Artist rendition of Chinese government plans for development of Woody Island’s Sansha City.


14  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

The Chinese government believes that its law enforcement forces at sea are not commensurate with its status and image as a great power in the region. Accordingly, the unification of marine enforcement agencies is expected to give Beijing flexibility when dealing with maritime conflicts while, at the same time, preventing the nation’s photo: USCG Press strategic opportunities from being harmed. A more practical consideration would be the fact that introducing warships into a maritime dispute generally tends to escalate the situation. In order to reduce the potential for conflict, law enforcement vessels are more politically acceptable. In other words, the new Coast Guard can serve as a buffer between China and other states in a crisis situation. According to the restructuring plan announced March 10, 2013, four of the five forces involved in marine law enforcement will be unified under a single administration—the Maritime Police Bureau—under the auspices of a restructured National Oceanic Administration. Given the range of agencies that previously had responsibility for marine law enforcement, streamlining the system should improve efficiency by reducing redundancies and attendant overhead costs. Moreover, it will reduce the bureaucratic competition over the protection of Chinese sovereignty of offshore islands and islets. The unification of marine law enforcement agencies will allow Beijing to apply its burgeoning civilian marine law enforcement resources against smugglers and foreign fishermen in a more efficient manner.

The Chinese flag flies at the Coast Guard Academy in Ningbo, China.

More importantly, such restructuring and integration will provide China with a much better ability to support its various maritime claims in the East and South China seas. Meanwhile, analysts will no doubt keenly observe China’s new Coast Guard and its behavior in the East China Sea, especially given that Beijing’s baseline claim ostensibly makes the disputed Diaoyutai/ Senkaku Islands and the waters enclosed by them Chinese territory. Will they act to expel or detain fishing vessels from Taiwan, Japan and other neighboring countries, or engage in standoffs with these countries’ own law enforcement vessels? If not, they run the risk of having China be considered a paper tiger. If so, then China’s neighbors will be pushed into even stronger security alliances with the United States. Either path would seem to bode ill for any hopes of de-escalation in the region. b About the author Dr. Dustin Wang is a professor in the Graduate Institute of Political Science, National Taiwan Normal University, and also a Visiting Professorial Fellow, ANCORS, Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts, University of Wollongong, Australia. He can be reached for comment at

Summer 2013 Special Issue  15

image: Triotriotrio

A portion of a Qing scroll at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum depicts piracy in the South China Sea.

Historical precedents in international maritime law and the implications for the Guang Da Xing incident by Kuo-Tsai John Chao & Wen-lung Laurence Lin

n May 9 this year, when operating in the overlapping exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of Taiwan and the Philippines, an unarmed Taiwanese fishing boat—the Guang Da Xing No. 28—was attacked by a Philippine Coast Guard vessel, Maritime Control Surveillance 3001. Fiftynine bullet holes were found in the fishing boat, and Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng, 65, died as a


Afterward, on May 11, the government of the Republic of China (ROC) made four demands of the Philippines, namely: to offer a formal apology; to provide compensation for the losses; to promptly and thoroughly investigate the incident and severely punish those responsible for the killing; and to initiate fishery negotiations between the two countries as soon as possible. In terms of international law, these demands comply with the principles of fair-

result of the reckless shooting of machine guns and automatic weapons by the Filipino law enforcement personnel. The unjustified use of violence and inhumane killing violated many articles of international conventions, and the Philippine government should be held accountable.

ness and justice. The details of this incident are not unprecedented, and in fact there have been quite a few cases in which the reckless use of violence at sea breached international law. These include the 1935 I’m Alone incident, the 1961 arrest of the Scottish trawler Red Crusader;

16  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

and the 1997 MV Saiga case. In the first case, the US Coast Guard cutters Dexter and Walcott attacked and sank the two-masted schooner I’m Alone, a British rum-runner of Canadian registry, which was known to US authorities for smuggling liquor from Canada into prohibition-era America. Later, an arbitration commission ruled that the US Coast Guard had acted unlawfully in its intentional sinking of the boat, the incident having occurred more than 200 nautical miles off the US coast and therefore outside American waters. The US government was forced to apologize for the wrongful sinking and pay an indemnity to the captain and crew. In the second case, a boarding party from the Danish frigate Niels Ebbesen boarded the Scottish trawler Red Crusader for allegedly poaching within the territory of the Faeroe Islands, a semi-autonomous Danish province. Despite the presence of Danish law enforcement personnel on board, and warning shots fired by the Niels Ebbesen across the Red Crusader’s bow, the trawler nevertheless accelerated and made for the Scottish port of Aberdeen, prompting the Danish frigate to fire upon the fleeing ship.

tending 250 miles from its coast. The Guinean ships fired blanks, and when the Saiga attempted to escape, engaged in hot pursuit. When the vessel was well outside the contiguous zone of Guinea, the pursuing ships fired live rounds and arrested the Saiga when it was either outside or about to leave the EEZ. This case is instructive in that the complicated jurisdictional issues—the MV Saiga was owned by

“In each of these three cases, a determination was made that the enforcement of law at sea should avoid the use of force.”

An enquiry commission found that the commanding officer of the Niels Ebbesen had exceeded the legitimate use of force, and that it was not justified despite the Red Crusader’s escape attempt. This case is unique and relevant in international law because it remains one of the only cases in which both countries involved in an international dispute agreed to have the matter settled by allowing a neutral, third-

Cypriots, registered in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, chartered by Swiss, operated by a Scottish company, and crewed by Senegalese with Ukrainian officers— necessitated a truly international tribunal. Indeed, it was the first case to be put before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, Germany, which ruled that Guinea had acted wrongfully in arresting the vessel under the circumstances, and in using excessive force. Guinea was ordered to release ship and crew and pay reparations. Furthermore, it was clarified that Guinea could not claim an EEZ of more than 200 miles. In each of these three cases, a determination was made that the enforcement of law at sea should avoid the use of force. Even if the use of force is justified by the circumstances, officers must avoid putting any life in danger. That the Philippine government vessel abused force in the overlapping EEZ is a clear

party commission—in this case, in the Hague—to uncover the details. The third case involves the October 28, 1997, seizure of the oil tanker MV Saiga and the detention of its crew by Guinean patrol boats for refueling fishing vessels off Guinea, which claimed a customs zone ex-

violation of international law in general, and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in particular. The Philippine government vessel’s firing at the unarmed and non-provocative Taiwanese fishing boat, and in doing so killing the fisherman, was an unjustified act of violence.

Excessive force

Summer 2013 Special Issue  17

In accordance with international customary law and the UNCLOS, the ROC government enjoys exclusive jurisdiction over its EEZ. The Philippine Coast Guard fired solid shots and killed the Taiwanese fisherman inside the EEZ of Taiwan. Consequently, in terms of both jus sanguinis and jus soli, the ROC government has jurisdiction over the case. That the Philippine Coast Guard intentionally shot the unarmed Taiwanese fishing boat legally operating in the EEZ of Taiwan was a clear breach of international law. The Philippine government should therefore be held responsible. Manila ought to offer a formal apology, compensate monetarily for all losses, investigate the incident thoroughly, severely punish those responsible for the killing, and guarantee that it will never commit such a crime again. From the outset of the case, ROC President Ma Ying-jeou indicated that the incident was not the first time that violence had been committed by Filipinos against Taiwanese fishermen. On May 11, in addition to the announcement of its four demands, the ROC government warned that if the Philippines failed to meet these demands by midnight on May 14, Taipei would launch a first wave of sanctions on the morning of May 15. Manila failed to respond to the four demands to

Taipei’s satisfaction; instead, its arrogant and dishonest dealings enraged the people of Taiwan. In turn, on May 15, 2013, the ROC government launched the first wave of sanctions, which included suspending the hiring of Philippine workers, recalling the ROC

“After nearly three months ... Manila finally made positive and concrete response to Taipei’s four demands.” representative to the Philippines, and sending the Philippine representative to Taiwan back to Manila. Amadeo Perez Jr., chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), visited Taiwan on May 15 to serve as the personal representative of Benigno Aquino III, president of the Philippines, and express his deep regret and apologies to the Taiwanese people for the unfortunate incident. These words only caused outrage within the ROC government, which rejected the apology as informal and insincere, and quickly launched a second wave of eight sanctions, which mainly included issuing a red alert on travel to the Philippines, suspending high-level exchanges, removing the Philippines from Taiwan’s visa-waiver program, and increasing patrols A sailor aims his weapon at the Guang Da Xing No. 28 in a video released by the Philippine Coast Guard.

photo: Philippine Coast Guard

18  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

The results of the ROC Department of Justice’s forensic on the South China Sea by vessels examination of the damage due to small-arms fire on the of the Ministry of National Defense Guang Da Xing No. 28. and Coast Guard Administration. The original plan for joint patrols was to dispatch five naval warships to the area for a four-day deployment. Yet, persons familiar with the situation have pointed out that Washington, concerned about the dispute between two of its regional allies, pressured Taipei into reducing the intensity and duration of the drills. Eventually, the ROC conducted a two-day “safety and rescue” drill with three naval ships and other Coast Guard vessels near the waters where the incident occurred. No live ammunition was fired during the exercise. US State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said May 13, 2013, that Washington was trying to play image: ROC MOJ a role in calming the growing crisis. “We regret the tragic death of a Taiwan fishing boat China Sea as a show of defending the territorial inmaster during a May 9 confrontation at sea with a tegrity of China. Beijing seems to be trying to find a Philippine patrol vessel,” she said, though she stopped way to facilitate joint efforts for safeguarding what short of condemning the incident. This was interpretit considers its sovereignty across the Taiwan Strait. ed by many analysts in Taiwan as Washington showBeijing’s reaction prompted a more positive attitude ing more support to Manila, which caused strong from Washington toward Taipei. In mid- and late backlash in Taipei. May, many US House representatives, including Steve Chabot, Eni Faleomavaega, Kerry Bentivolio, Blake Beijing gets involved Farenthold, Mario Diaz-Balart, and Dennis Ross, called upon the Philippines to promptly and sincerely From the beginning of the crisis, China severely respond to the requests of the ROC government. condemned the Philippines’ “barbaric” shooting of After nearly three months of sticky negotiations the Taiwanese fishing boat and expressed Beijing’s and joint investigations, Manila finally made a posiconcerns about the safety of Taiwanese fishermen. tive and concrete response to Taipei’s four demands. On the other hand, Beijing dispatched in mid-May The ROC and Philippine governments released their its newly commissioned aircraft carrier Liaoning to investigation reports on the fatal shooting at seppass through the Bashi Channel and enter the South arate news conferences on August 7, 2013. It was Summer 2013 Special Issue  19

Map indicating the location of the attack (marked by a red X) based on the GPS record of the Guang Da Xing’s path.


recommended that eight Philippine Coast Guard personnel be prosecuted for homicide. The following day, Perez returned to Taiwan to publicly apologize to the victim’s family and the people of Taiwan. An agreement on compensation has also been reached between attorneys for the victim’s family and MECO. In response, the ROC government lifted the 11 sanctions it had in place. Both countries reached a consensus to launch next-stage fishery negotiations in September. Once bilateral fishery negotiations yield acceptable results, Taipei’s four demands on the Guang Da Xing incident will have been met by Manila. Although the ROC was legally justified to make the four demands on the Philippines, and managed to settle the dispute peacefully, the incident has served to awaken Taipei to the challenges it faces in an increasingly dynamic strategic environment in the Asia-Pacific region, and to the dangers associated with its lack of participation in regional maritime security cooperation. 20  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

The context and characteristics of the 2012 and 2013 Balikatan Exercises indicate that the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty may become an axis to realign America’s bilateral alliances toward the South China Sea to jointly deal with China. Consequently, the Philippines seems to be playing a bigger role these days in the big picture of America’s strategic rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific.

Lashing out Amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, Manila has been unable to score any victories against an increasingly assertive China. Appreciating the rise of its strategic value, Manila might attempt to use the Guang Da Xing incident to lash out at Taipei over its anger toward Beijing and test Washington’s support of the Philippines. After all, the event gave Beijing a chance to flex its military muscles in the Bashi Channel and gain support in Taipei for joint crossstrait efforts to defend sovereignty and resources in the South China Sea.

However, Washington fears that the incident could prompt Taipei to inch closer to Beijing, which would compromise the integrity of the US-Japan alliance, the kernel of America’s security arrangements in the Asia-Pacific. In short, the Philippines’ overdraft of its Washington Bank account has helped to decrease America’s credibility in Taipei, and instead increased China’s appeal to certain sectors in Taiwan. Accordingly, Washington has to stop this ongoing imbalance from deteriorating. Eventually, Taipei managed to secure a ticket for bilateral fishery negotiations with Manila, which will help to minimize sovereignty conflicts in these dynamic waters. The twists and turns of the Guang Da Xing incident sound familiar, like a repetition of the fishery dispute between Taiwan and Japan in the Diaoyutai/Senkaku waters, in which Taipei managed to reach a bilateral fishery agreement with Tokyo. The future may witness similar episodes in the South China Sea, where Vice Justice Minister Chen Ming-tang at a May 15 press conference showing reporters the bullet holes in the fishing vessel.

there are still quite a few fishery disputes awaiting settlement. The key to scoring advantages out of similar disputes in the South China Sea is a combination of legal jurisdiction and military presence, as illustrated in the Diaoyutai/Senkaku waters and in the Bashi Channel. Especially in terms of realpolitik in the treacherous South China Sea, a military presence could be the alias for legal jurisdiction. Without the former, the claimant of the latter will be marginalized. The best justification for Taiwan to consolidate its military presence in the South China Sea is perhaps participation in regional maritime security cooperation. Consequently, it is strongly recommended that participation in regional maritime security efforts should be given priority in Taipei’s diplomatic and defense strategies in the near future. b About the authors Dr. Kuo-Tsai John Chao is a professor in the Department of Diplomacy at National Chengchi University. Dr. Wen-lung Laurence Lin is an assistant professor at the Graduate Institute of Strategic Studies and instructor at the Naval Command & Staff College, National Defense University. He can be reached for comment at

photo: ROC MOJ

Summer 2013 Special Issue  21

Flagrant Foul Political dispute spills over into apolitical realm by Marites DaĂąguilan Vitug

When the Chinese Taipei Basketball Association (CTBA) disinvited the Philippines team from competing for the R. William Jones Cup, an international basketball tournament held annually in Taiwan, it was clear that the diplomatic row had spilled into apolitical territory.

photo: Stuart Seeger 22  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes


he killing of a Taiwanese fisherman on May 9, 2013, during an encounter with a Philippine Coast Guard vessel caused so much fallout that even sports suffered collateral damage. The CTBA said it was simply following government instructions “due to tense relations.” Michael Lee, a spokesman for the association, told Agence FrancePresse, “we have to abide by the government’s decision because we need government support to organize the tournament.” The Philippines has participated in almost all 35 tournaments in the past and, last year, its team won the Jones Cup. But it was not present in July to defend its title. Basketball is much loved in the Philippines. Almost every community, even in remote farming towns, has a basketball court. Some are makeshift, others look ramshackle. But in the country, it’s a fixture, like the Catholic Church (the majority of Filipinos are Catholics). Many Filipinos are crazy about the game and its stars. At one point in its history, the

government engaged in “basketball diplomacy” to open ties with the People’s Republic of China. It sent its most famous basketball players to Shanghai and Beijing to compete. That is why the move by the CTBA hit home particularly hard. Online reaction to the news was anything but tepid: Some called Taiwan a “bully,” “immature” and “acting like a spoiled child.” Others suggested that the Philippines get back by boycotting Taiwanmade products.

Retaliation Apart from barring the Philippines from the games, the government of Taiwan has made life difficult for the Filipino workers in their country, who number about 87,000. New jobs for Filipino migrant workers were frozen, and Taiwanese employers reportedly stopped renewing the contracts of Filipinos. Moreover, the Taiwanese government issued a “red” travel alert urging its nationals not to visit the

A ramshackle basketball court in the Philippines sits idle. photo: Northways

Summer 2013 Special Issue  23

Philippines. Taiwan is one of the largest sources of tourists for the Philippines. Manila has apologized for the fiasco. Malacañang spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters that President Benigno Aquino III had sent his “personal representative,” Amadeo Perez Jr., chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), to convey “his and the Filipino people’s deep regret and apology to the family of Mr. Hung Shih-cheng, as well as to the people of Taiwan over the unfortunate and unintended loss of life.” In line with the Philippines’ one-China policy, Manila has no embassy in Taipei; it is represented by MECO. But Republic of China (ROC) President Ma Yingjeou found this apology “insincere,” insisted on a “formal apology” and, in a high-handed manner, gave the Philippines a 72-hour ultimatum. The killing of the fisherman had happened a few days before the mid-term national elections, which preoccupied Aquino (he campaigned intensely for the administration’s senatorial ticket) and tensions between the two states reached its peak during the week of the polls.

Tensions abating Fast forward to today. The good news is: the tension between Taipei and Manila is de-escalating as both sides agreed to get to the bottom of the killing at sea. The bad news is: there will be more of these disputes, in different variations, if both sides don’t learn the right lessons from this crisis and behave reasonably in their shared maritime territory. How can this be accomplished? First, key issues need to be resolved. Where did the shooting happen? According to law professor Jay Batongbacal, who heads the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, it took place in Philippine waters. He based this on “geographic coordinates and vessel track” released by Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration. “The vessel was fish24  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

ing approximately 43 nautical miles east of Balintang Island, far beyond any Taiwanese territory and undeniably closer to Philippine territory,” Batongbacal, an expert on maritime issues, wrote in Another contentious issue is whether excessive force was used. No doubt, the loss of life is unfortunate. But, as Batongbacal strongly pointed out, “a singular misfortune should not be scrupulously used as a political hammer with which to bludgeon Philippine dignity and demand a surrender of legitimate Philippine interests.”

“China, with its nine-dash line which claims almost the entire South China Sea, has appropriated this body of water for itself.” The root of the problem lies out there on the sea, on the edges of our land territory, where it feels like one has reached the ends of the Earth. Facing a seemingly limitless expanse of blue, the fishing boats look like specks, undulating in the distance. Undisturbed, they go about their business, eyeing bountiful harvests. The waters are calm; the slight summer breeze eases the heat, and day quietly turns into night. But there is one thing missing from this idyllic picture. The vast, serene sea, with the pure color of a clear sky, is contested territory. And it is fraught with danger. This danger is because China, with its nine-dash line which claims almost the entire South China Sea, has appropriated this body of water for itself—and by all appearances, Taiwan supports China in its position. In fact, it does not support China’s claim, but rather uses the same justification for Taipei’s own claim over the entire sea—a distinction that is subtle enough to be missed by those who are feeling outrage at Chinese bullying. Our giant neighbor’s claim, as Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio said in a re-

map: US DoD Summer 2013 Special Issue  25

Philippine leaders may just as well use this most re-

sary, former Senator Mar Roxas, who at the time was not yet holding a government post but was widely seen as someone close to the president. (Roxas was Aquino’s running mate in the 2010 presidential election, though he lost.) Taipei was appeased, although it tried to press for an apology from the government. Manila, of course, could not do this because of its one-China policy, but President Aquino did send a nuanced, well-worded apology to the people of Taiwan. Initially, Taiwan was “livid,” Roxas said in a TV interview at the time. They imposed restrictions on visa applications and work permits for Filipinos. But after extended talks, Taiwan lifted these restrictions. The minister of foreign affairs wrote Roxas, saying he appreciated the visit, “which paved the way for a quick resolution to this unfortunate incident.” “For them, it’s all about their national pride,” Roxas explained. “They keep telling us: what if the same happens to the Philippines?” Apparently, this time around, Malacañang forgot all about this “national pride” and emissary business. The killing of a Taiwanese fisherman is far more serious than the deportation row, but Aquino did not send a high-level private emissary. Officials during the administration of President Fidel Ramos say that, at the height of the tension, Filipinos were witnessing a highly-charged emotional response among the Taiwanese that went beyond geopolitics. “Our situation is similar to Flor Contemplacion in reverse,” Jose Almonte, former national security adviser to President Ramos, said in an interview. Contemplacion was a Filipino domestic worker who

cent crisis with Taiwan as a source of learning. In 2011, the Philippines had a skirmish with Taiwan when Manila deported 14 Taiwanese nationals, who had been arrested and charged with crimes in Philippine courts—only they were deported to China. What did President Aquino do? He sent a private emis-

was executed in Singapore for murder in 1995. This caused an uproar in the Philippines, strained ties between Manila and Singapore, and was one of the major crises that the Ramos government faced. “The level of the people is the most delicate. Once they get emotional, no one can stop them, not the

photo: Pete Erlano Rahon

Senator Mar Roxas served as an emissary between Manila and Taipei.

cent speech, “converts the South China Sea into an internal Chinese lake. “It takes away the maritime entitlements of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and even Indonesia. It takes away our exclusive economic zone.” Manila has brought its case to an international tribunal for arbitration, but Beijing has refused to participate.

A teachable moment

26  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

government. That’s why this is very dangerous,” Almonte cautioned. In this case, there should be a back channel, he added, because the government cannot formally have talks with Taiwan. Another Ramos official explains the vehement reaction of the Taiwanese this way: “They have a soft spot for their fishermen. So Taiwanese are as emo-

“Now that the investigation is over and criminal charges have been laid, it is expected that the officers found responsible for the killing will be held accountable.” tional and as irrational now as Filipinos were when Flor Contemplacion was executed.” The other major thing to do is to orient the Coast Guard—as well as the Navy—on the geopolitics of the high-seas, the “diplomatic triangle” of China, Taiwan, and the Philippines, and review the rules of engagement. The law of the sea prescribes restraint in

the case of intruding vessels: seize, board and arrest. “We should learn from Japan,” suggested China scholar Chito Sta. Romana. “They use water cannons and plastic bullets.” The crisis also showed the need for a fisheries agreement between Manila (albeit through private organizations) and Taipei. This won’t be easy, Sta. Romana pointed out, because China will pose an objection. In the case of Japan and Taiwan, Sta. Romana said, it took 17 years to conclude their fisheries agreement. Now that the investigation is over and criminal charges have been laid, it is expected that the officers found responsible for the killing will be held accountable. The rule of law should prevail, and Taiwan has ceased its official sanctions on Filipino citizens. This should bring this lamentable chapter in TaiwanPhilippine relations to a close. b About the author Marites Dañguilan Vitug is an author and journalist in the Philippines. She is currently editor-at-large of Rappler and can be reached for comment at marites.

Anping at sunset. The calm of the regional waters belies increasing tensions and the danger of escalating confrontations, both at sea and between governments.

photo: Yamil Gonzales Summer 2013 Special Issue  27

Bulletin board photo courtesy Caren Parmelee Brochure produced by ROC MOFA 28  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

The ‘Guang Da Xing No. 28’ Incident in South China Sea Successes, Failings, & Lessons Learned

by J. Michael Cole


ew incidents in modern times have unleashed emotions in Taiwan as the May 9, 2013, slaying of Hung Shih-cheng, a 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman, when overzealous Philippine Coast Guard personnel opened fire on the Guang Da Xing No. 28 in waters that are disputed between the two countries. Taipei’s uneven handling of the matter—under what were admittedly very difficult circumstances—provides an opportunity to explore what it did right and to highlight policy shortcomings so that it can handle future crises more effectively. A number of factors, not all of them immediately related to the incident, ensured that the administration of Republic of China (ROC) President Ma Ying-jeou would face tremendous challenges as it attempted to resolve the dispute with Manila. Unlike prior incidents, the public response to the killing was much more emotional, and perhaps even more surprisingly, the outrage was bi-partisan, with both Kuomintang (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators calling for prompt and hard retaliation for the Philippines’ actions and— as the crisis dragged on—apparent inaction. While the causes of that widespread reaction have yet to be fully identified, the combination of Philippine recidivism, the current strategic context, Taiwanese domestic politics, and a strong media focus on the slaying

all undeniably played a role in fueling the outrage. With his popularity ratings at about 19 percent, the external crisis could not have occurred at a more opportune time for President Ma, as nationalistic fervor (what some foreign commentators questionably characterized as “Han chauvinism”) and people’s rallying around the flag gave him a chance to improve his image. However, tempting though it may have been to ride the wave of public outrage, Ma’s ability to respond was constrained by several factors, including the need to avoid causing damage to bilateral relations with measures that were disproportionate to the crime, as well as the close alliance between the Philippines and the United States, Taiwan’s closest security ally.

Moral high ground Furthermore, while Taiwan was the injured party in the incident, it needed to act in a manner that ensured it retained the moral high ground, and it had to avoid using its economic and military superiority in ways that looked as if it were bullying its weaker neighbor. One last consideration was the necessity of hedging against China, which gave every indication that it saw the crisis as an opportunity to escalate tensions with the Philippines and to renew its calls for cooperation between Taipei and Beijing on territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Summer 2013 Special Issue  29

photo: photo: Kaohsiung City Hall Kaohsiung city councilors light Philippine flags in a protest outside the southern city’s branch of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office.

Conversely, the Ma administration could not afford to do nothing, nor could its response be regarded as “too weak,” a factor that on some occasions seemed to encourage Taipei to throw caution and diplomacy to the wind. While there is no doubt that the anger at the killing of the unarmed fisherman was heartfelt among DPP members, some exploited the crisis for political gain, either to improve their standing with constituents in fishing communities where they intended to run in future local elections, or simply to further encourage the perceptions of Ma’s “weak” leadership and his inability to stand up for Taiwan (a number of KMT legislators, with their own local considerations, behaved much the same way). While the tactics may have yielded local benefits, the calls for blood, as well as the public burnings of the Philippine flag and images of President Benigno Aquino III, may have compelled the Ma administration to be more unyielding in its policies than it otherwise would have wanted to be, which thus militated against a prompt resolution of the crisis. The military 30  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

exercises held by the ROC Navy and Coast Guard on May 16 in waters near the site of the incident may have been the result of such domestic pressures, as was Taipei’s insistence on an official apology from the Aquino government despite an international context that, as we shall see, made it nearly impossible for Manila to issue one.

Striking a balance By most accounts, the Ma administration handled the first phase of the crisis with aplomb, striking a balance between firmness in its demands to Manila (e.g., the 72-hour ultimatum) and keeping the door open for negotiations, visits by senior Philippine officials, and a joint investigation into the shooting. However, it lost its footing when, a week into the crisis, it described as “insufficient” the conveyance of President Aquino’s “deep regret and apology over the unfortunate and unintended loss of life” to the people of Taiwan by Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) Chairman Amadeo Perez Jr., who had

been sent to Taipei to handle the matter. The following day, Perez and Antonio Basilio, the Philippines’ representative to Taipei, were expelled from Taiwan, whereupon Taipei embarked on the second, and what some could call self-defeating, phase of the crisis. While Taipei was justified in seeking a full, official, and government-to-government (G2G) apology from the Philippines, Taiwanese officials were at the same time conscious that Manila’s one-China policy greatly constrained its ability to do so. But the power imbalance, which played in Taiwan’s favor, as well as internal forces, which provided incentives for firmness, meant that Taipei missed a great opportunity to de-escalate. As a result, it came out looking like the irresponsible party in a dispute not of its making. The latter outcome, moreover, cannot be separated from the context in which it occurred, especially from years of inconsistency by the Ma administration on one-China versus its desire for Taiwan to be treated as a normal, sovereign state. In other words, had the President Ma comforts the family of slain fisherman Hung Shih-cheng.

Ma government, from the moment it entered office in 2008, insisted on normal diplomatic relations with the international community, it would have come out of the crisis with the Philippines looking less like an opportunistic bully when it insisted on an official

“MOFA embarked on a propaganda campaign with ads and Web pages endeavoring to depict the Philippines as cold-blooded murderers.” G2G response from Manila. Instead, its intransigence encouraged the view that, by insisting on what Manila simply could not provide, Taipei sought to drag on the crisis rather than de-escalate, accept the imperfect apology, and then cooperate on a joint investigation, to ensure that the proper punishment is meted out to those responsible, and work toward signing a fisheries accord and conflict-management mechanism. Perez’s failed mission was therefore the pivotal moment, and the point where Taipei not only lost the

photo: Office of the President

Summer 2013 Special Issue  31

moral high ground, but also its senses. In the following days, the ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) embarked on a propaganda campaign with ads and Web pages endeavoring to depict the Philippines as cold-blooded murderers. Through a number of discussions, this author has also learned that MOFA approached a number of foreign journalists and academics, in Taiwan and abroad, with requests that they write op-eds using language that supported Taiwan’s case in the dispute. MOFA then proceeded to post those articles on its official Web site, while officials in the administration lambasted media outlets that did not embrace its version of events. In a few cases, MOFA officials either implicitly threatened consequences for failing to accept the request (e.g., loss of access), or made very clumsy approaches, which ultimately succeeded in insulting the foreign academic or journalist and undermined its image and reputation. This was not isolated: MOFA has behaved in a similar fashion by strongly—and repeatedly—encouraging visiting scholars to support and write positively about President Ma’s East Taiwan’s Liao Liao-yi, right, shakes hands with Japan’s Mitsuo Ohashi after signing a fisheries agreement in Taipei on April 10, 2013.

China Sea Peace Initiative, which puts individuals in an awkward position vis-à-vis officials with the ability to grant favors, access, and funding. In the end, Taipei will probably get most of what it sought from the Philippines following the incident. However, its inability to stick to its initially well-balanced policy ultimately undermined Taiwan’s international image and created unnecessary difficulties in conflict resolution. The following are some modest policy proposals that can help avoid similar mishaps in the future.

Policy proposals First, policy, treaties and agreements must be preventive, not reactive: Taiwan’s fisheries agreement with Japan, signed earlier this year, has been hailed as a great success. But that agreement occurred after years of skirmishes with Japanese Coast Guard and fishing vessels, which could have led to escalation and damaged bilateral ties. Given that Taiwan is involved in a number of territorial disputes in the South China Sea, every effort should be made to implement agreements before clashes occur and lives are lost. If possible, such agreements should also be multilateral,

photo: VOA

32  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

photo: flagsonstamps A stamp issued by the Republic of China in 1967 harks back to better times in Taiwan-Philippines relations.

though should this be impossible, bilateral pacts are better than nothing. Second, know who your friends are: Unfortunate though Hung’s death was, the crisis was minor compared to the great security challenges facing Taiwan, especially those posed by China. As such, Taiwanese policymakers should as much as possible avoid creating splits within the unofficial alliance of democracies in the Asia Pacific, and in the process degrade its relationship with friendly countries. Allies have their differences, but those must be resolved under the guiding principle that alliance cohesion, and providing a united front against a common enemy, are more important. Taiwan must also be sustained in its messaging that it will not cooperate with China in any of those disputes, despite what Beijing claims, and must keep in mind that most regional countries are also allies of the United States, Taiwan’s top security guarantor. Third, avoid coming across as a bully or a “troublemaker.” Taiwan has long been accustomed to being bullied, but that does not give it permission to unduly threaten weaker countries with economic sanctions or its relatively modern military forces. It must therefore be just and commensurate in its responses to crisis, and consequently retain the moral high ground. Taiwan must maintain the good will of the international community, even when that good will is not always apparent.

Fourth, know when to escalate and—just as importantly—when to de-escalate. International relations being what they are, sometimes states have no choice but to send strong signals to protect their interests, and this applies to Taiwan. But such measures must be proportionate, of short duration, and must be geared toward clear goals and eventual deescalation. They must also avoid becoming outlets for, or hostage to, domestic pressures and electoral machinations. Taiwan has highly skilled diplomats, and they must be allowed to do their work to the best of their abilities. Fifth, be careful with propaganda and public-relations (PR) campaigns. Journalists and academics—especially those from the West—despise being told what to say or write. With the majority of them, clumsy efforts to control the message will backfire and sully Taiwan’s reputation as a democracy that respects freedom of expression and of the press. News that it is doing so will spread within the community and can only hurt Taiwan’s credibility, along with that of those who agree to serve as its propagandists. PR campaigns must be professional, aware of impacts and perceptions abroad, and must avoid hyperbole and hysteria. b About the author J. Michael Cole is a Taipei-based correspondent on China and Taiwan for Jane’s Defence Weekly, a columnist for The Diplomat, and deputy news editor at the Taipei Times.

Summer 2013 Special Issue  33

e t e p m o c ia d In and India compete China China and n a e c O n ia d In e h t in y primac in the Indian Ocean for for primacy By Gregory Coutaz


he strategic importance of the Indian Ocean region has come into focus over the last few years. One reason is the growth of the Asian economies and their increased need for raw materials—especially energy from the Middle East—to fuel their economic growth. In the reverse direction, enormous cargo ships carry manufactured goods from Asia to Middle Eastern and European destinations. As a result, traditional maritime security concerns over sea lines of communication (SLOCs) have assumed a greater importance. The economic value of the ships that travel the region has stimulated various forms of predatory and exploitative behaviour that risks lives and livelihoods, and adds cost for legal users of these commercial sea lanes. Home to vital shipping routes, the Indian Ocean has seen a corresponding increase in maritime crime with the preponderance of threats arising from piracy and terrorism. The maintenance of a peaceful and lawful maritime domain is critical to Asia-Pacific security and economic well-being. The current strategic interest in the Indian Ocean region is not unlike one that took place four decades ago, when Great Britain announced the withdrawal of its forces from East of Suez. In the late 1960s, there was no doubt about who might replace Great Britain as the dominant power in the region. The only issue then was how the United States would organize itself to manage the affairs of the Indian Ocean. This changing of the guard was a relatively smooth one, for it shifted the burden of securing the region from one 34  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

Anglo-Saxon power to another, allied Anglo-Saxon power. That the two enjoyed a strong friendship and shared basic values made the transition quick and decisive. An ongoing power transition would, however, be longer and more destabilizing. In the present context, it has been argued that the relative decline of the United States is inevitable and a reorganization of the balance of power in the Indian Ocean cannot be avoided. The overall size of the US Navy is indeed dropping and its costs of deployment can only rise. Some of the consequences of these trend lines will be the loss of US maritime primacy in the region.

Distribution of power There can be no denying that the rise of China and the emergence of India will mean a restructuring of the distribution of power in the Indian Ocean. The economic, political, and security interests of China and India are rapidly growing, along with all the subregions of the Indian Ocean littoral. The widening circle of their national interests also indicates that Beijing and New Delhi are today more reliant on the seas than ever in their history. The more integrated they become with the world economy, the greater their stakes are at sea. Unlike in the past, when both countries focused on their autarky, their increasing interdependence with the rest of the world now requires more powerful naval forces. Therefore, China and India have begun to increase the share of resources devoted to their navies. In March 2012, Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for the

National People’s Congress, announced that defence spending would increase by 11.2 percent over actual spending the previous year to hit US$106.6 billion, an increase of about US$11 billion. As is typical with China’s annual defence budget announcements, there were no details about specific programs.

Naval buildup According to a report issued in May 2012 by the Pentagon, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is bolstering its ranks with new missile destroyers, frigates, and submarines that could be used to deny an adversary access to strategic areas, such as the South and East China seas, as well as the Indian Ocean. Moreover, the recent commissioning of China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, as well as reports of a domestic carrier-building program, increases Beijing’s naval capacity in defending the country’s strategic interests. About 85 percent of China’s oil imports, and a growing proportion of its gas imports, come by sea through the Indian Ocean. By comparison, the 2012-2013 budget presented to the Indian Parliament has allocated US$40.3 billion for the defence services, made up of the Army, Navy and Air Force. This allocation, which constitutes India’s official defence budget, represents an increase of 17.6 percent over the previous amount. With an approximate budget of US$20.3 billion, the Army accounts for 50 percent of the latest defence budget, followed by the Air Force (US$10.1 billion, at 25 percent), the Navy (US$7.8 billion, at 19 percent), and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (US$2.2 billion, at 6 percent). It is noteworthy that, compared to the previous year’s budget, the navy is the only service which has increased its share in the defence allocation (from 15 to 19 percent). The Indian Navy is emphasizing three fleets—the Western fleet based in Mumbai, the

photo: miheco Summer 2013 Special Issue  35

Eastern fleet in Visakhapatnam, and the Southern fleet in Kochi—and is building up hardware to prevent China from getting too comfortable in the Indian ocean. India launched a new aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant, on August 12, 2013. While it will still require a couple of years of trials, the 37,500 tonne ship joins the Indian aircraft carrier INS Viraat already in service, and the INS Vikramaditya which will be officially commissioned into the Indian Navy next year. The Vikrant is notable in that it was designed and built locally, at a shipyard in Kochi, and represents a great source of pride for the Indian people. Just a few days prior to the launch of the Vikrant, the Indian Navy achieved another impressive goal with the activation of the reactor aboard the INS Arihant, a INS Vikrant (IAC-I) at the Kochi Shipyard. Named for the Sanskrit word for courageous, the Vikrant is the first aircraft carrier built in India.

36  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine that also was built in India. The Arihant is reportedly the first ballistic missile submarine known to have been built outside the five recognized nuclear powers. Unfortunately, these steps forward were overshadowed by the August 14, Times Asi 2013, news of the accidental explosion and sinking of the INS Sindhurakshak, one of 10 Russian-built Kilo-class submarines currently serving in the Indian Navy. At the time of writing, 18 crewmembers are feared dead. Clearly, both Beijing and New Delhi are building blue-water navies which are aimed at becoming inevitable adjuncts to the globalising economies of the two Asian giants. The necessity of securing energy resources and the safety of maritime transport are the key components of geopolitics in the contemporary Indian Ocean. India naturally sees itself in the longer term as the pre-dominant power in the region. New Delhi is using its navy to promote influence across the ocean

photo: Drajay1976

from the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Aden to the Malacca Strait and down to the Cape of Good Hope. Since the turn of the millennium, India’s foreign policy has thus undergone major changes as the country strives for a larger regional and global role for itself.

China looking west China, meanwhile, is also increasing its presence in the region. Beijing is providing extensive development assistance to many littoral countries of the Indian Ocean. China’s trade with these countries has grown exponentially in recent years. The prospect of a rising China “Look West” policy, projecting its power into the Indian Ocean, has caused trepidation in New Delhi. Consequently, China’s growing naval influence is being closely monitored by Indian officials. India seems uncertain of Chinese intent, especially as a growing Chinese power might be used to contain India’s rise. For Beijing, the Indian Ocean region is of vital na-

tional interest. A vast amount of the energy and natural resources China imports from the Middle East and Africa travel over the waters of the Indian Ocean, as do the goods produced in China’s “workshop of the world” factory base. Moreover, the Eurasian countries littoral to the Indian Ocean’s northern reach, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, are growing economies with interesting resource and population bases. In order to secure the SLOCs and reduce the likelihood of a distant blockade of Chinese shipping by “hostile” navies, Beijing has embarked on constructing highly developed ports in key strategic locations along the Indian Ocean’s littoral. Chinese leaders are increasingly hesitant about continuing to outsource their country’s sea-lane security to the Indian and US navies. As concerns about energy security intensify, China is seeking a permanent naval presence in the region. At a minimum, this requires access to deep-water ports for PLAN vessels to rest, refuel, and possibly refit. In a 2004 Pentagon-commissioned report by miliSummer 2013 Special Issue  37

tary contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, the Chinese strategy of setting up naval facilities in the Indian Ocean was referred to as the “string of pearls” policy. Adherents to this view argue that Beijing is trying to forge closer diplomatic relations with many Indian Ocean countries. China is signing multimillion dollar aid, trade, and defence deals with governments across the region, while Chinese state-owned companies have financed commercial ports in the Maldives (the Marao Atoll), Pakistan (Gwadar), Bangladesh (Chittagong), Burma (Sittwe and Kyaukpyu), Sri Lanka (Hambantota), and Kenya (Lamu), and Beijing has recently announced that the Seychelles would also be used as a future refuelling facility for its navy. More details are available on the map on Page 37. Viewed alongside the large-scale naval modernization programme being undertaken by the PLAN, many observers worry that these trade-oriented ports could one day be upgraded to serve as military bas-

es for Chinese forces. India does not want to see a Chinese naval buildup in its own backyard. According to Srikanth Kondapalli, professor of Chinese studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, the string of pearls

“Chinese maritime assertiveness has already caused several incidents with the United States, as well as dangerous tensions with its neighbors.” could become a reality by 2020. The string of pearls theory has been controversial and hotly debated. China is keen to convince India that it has no hostile intent. The Chinese government is aware of the looming security dilemma and has tried to alleviate regional concerns. For one, it is against China’s national interest to be in direct conflict with other countries. Then President graphic: Planemad

38  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

photo: Jason R. Zalasky

Hu Jintao stated that the goal of China’s naval strategy was a “harmonious ocean.” “China would never seek hegemony, nor would it turn to military expansion or arms races with other nations,” Hu told the heads of 29 foreign navy delegations who were visiting China to join celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PLAN. Rather, Beijing’s ambition is to reassure the countries of the Indian Ocean littoral by enhancing its reputation as a more responsible and cooperative actor, according to Hu. The problem with this argument is that Chinese maritime assertiveness has already caused several incidents with the United States (USS Kitty Hawk, USNS Impeccable), as well as dangerous tensions with its neighbors. Recent events in the ongoing territorial disputes in the South and East China seas demonstrate that China is still far from behaving as a mature, responsible world power. The string of pearls strategy’s detractors also point out that setting up naval facilities in the region is primarily designed to connect maritime supply chains to a growing network of continental roads, railways, pipelines and airfields. Most serve to link the landlocked provinces of southwestern China to the lucrative trade routes of the Indian Ocean.

Pirates hold the crew of the Chinese fishing vessel FV Tianyu 8 at gunpoint as the ship passes through the Indian Ocean.

The commercial logic behind the construction of expansive infrastructure, however, is far from obvious. The economic development of some of the poorest provinces of China seems to depend more on their connections with the coastal regions of eastern China than with their transport liaisons to distant naval installations. It would be naïve to consider that China’s agenda in the Indian Ocean is only driven by increasing maritime commerce with second-rate economies. Likewise, the development of new economic partnerships and the protection of Chinese tankers from pirates may be important, but they do not constitute the principal motivation for Beijing’s strategic presence in the Indian Ocean. As an emerging powerhouse, China cannot afford not to be included in the deliberation of matters relating to the world’s thirdlargest ocean, which, as an extension of India’s land mass, is equally important to New Delhi. As the two Asian giants continue to rise, it is likely that competition for influence in the Indian Ocean will continue to impact relations between China and India. b About the author Gregory Coutaz is a PhD candidate at National Chengchi University and a research assistant at the Institute of International Relations. He can be reached for comment at

Summer 2013 Special Issue  39


espite limited economic resources, Japan’s Yonaguni Island has been seeking economic autonomy by examining ways to leverage its geography as a frontier island. To this end, it has investigated two avenues of development: For one, it has been nurturing a sister-city agreement with the eastern Taiwan city of Hualien. On the other, it has lobbied for and negotiated a deal with the Japanese Ministry of Defense (MOD) that will see a contingent of the Self Defense Force (SDF) based there, thus increasing the tiny island’s population, consumer strength and tax base. These avenues may not be as divergent as they might at first seem. Located in Okinawa prefecture, Yonaguni is the westernmost island of Japan. It has a size of 28.9 square kilometers and a population of 1,550 people. The main industries are agriculture and fishery. It obtains some modest income as a tourist destination, due largely to its ideal location for scuba diving. It sits 111 km off the eastern coast of Taiwan, just 148 km from Hualien and 167 km from Taipei. Indeed, it is geographically closer to Taiwan than to most parts of Japan, at 514 km from Naha, Okinawa’s prefectural capital, and 2,037 km from Tokyo.

Once part of the Ryukyu Kingdom, Yonaguni Island enjoyed a brief heyday as a haven for smugglers during the first several years after World War II, when post-war disorder allowed a booming— though informal—trade relationship to develop with Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. This lasted only as long as it took the US military—operating out of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan during the 1950s—to establish tight controls over the movement of people and goods. After Okinawa’s reversion to Japan in 1972, Yonaguni had been all but forgotten; regarded only as a depopulated frontier island.

Inconvenient location The conflicting claims over the Diaoyutai/Senkaku Islands with China and Taiwan is the dispute which has the biggest impact on life in Yonaguni. Another problem is that the Taiwanese Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) lines up directly over Yonaguni Island. This problem is a holdover from

photo: keepon

How one small island is charting a developmental course through East Asia’s often treacherous geopolitical waters

40  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

the days when the US Air Force patrolled the skies over the island when it was under US occupation. Yonaguni’s sky is Japanese air space, but the easternmost one-third belongs to the Japanese ADIZ while the westernmost two-thirds belong to the Taiwanese ADIZ. It is a situation that is of great concern to the Japanese government. Because of its geographical proximity with Taiwan and China, Yonaguni is not free from the difficulties imposed by the cross-strait relationship. During the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis, the Chinese launched missiles into the area to intimidate Taiwanese voters, and many of these missiles impacted just 60 km off the Western shores of Yonaguni Island. Accordingly, military exercises by the armed forces of the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan have become active and also affect the livelihood of fishermen in Yonaguni. Tensions between China and Taiwan are an ever-

present security threat to Yonaguni people, who realize that their own fortunes are strongly related to the often fractious cross-strait relationship. This precarious existence so close to the Taiwan/China front led to the enactment of Japan’s Emergency-atthe-Periphery Law in 1999, which enables the SelfDefense Force to take action against potential threats to Japanese territory. To overcome the disadvantages of being a frontier island, Yonaguni has pursued Taiwan as an indispensable partner in its development. In addition to being geographically proximate, they have been socially close since the Japanese colonial era, when even Yonaguni’s time zone was the same as that of Taiwan. As such, Taiwan was within the sphere of daily life for Yonaguni people. Indeed, one of the candidates in the 1947 mayoral race promised to push for Yonaguni to become part of Taiwan.

Yonaguni by Taro Kurokawa

Summer 2013 Special Issue  41

A scuba diver explores the mysterious undersea ruins off Yonaguni Island.

Thus, the sister city affiliation has transformed the past informal relationship into an official, institutionalized one. The biggest reason for the sister city affiliation is the economic interest that Taiwan can bring, just as it had in the past. People there believe that if they are included in Taiwan’s economic zone, they can have access to better goods and services, and at a better price. Another reason has partly to do with identity. The island’s affiliation with both Ryukyu (Okinawa) and Japan have brought troubles in the past, but Taiwan

has existed throughout as a good neighbor, which experienced similar discrimination during the colonial era. This historical closeness with Taiwan and the Taiwanese is still within the living memory of many people on Yonaguni. To them, Taiwan was the photo: jpatokal place that showed them modernization. Immediately following the end of World War II, Taiwanese currency was freely exchanged for goods and services on the island, and this moment in time saw the island experience its most prosperous era, while most of Okinawa was still under reconstruction from war damage. Yonaguni forged the sister city affiliation with Hualien in 1982, one year after the opening of the Sonai sea port. It opened a liaison office in Hualien in 2007 and dispatched a representative to be stationed there to foster the further development of

photo: Kzaral

42  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

A tile map of the area demonstrates the proximity of Yonaguni Island to Taiwan. (A more accurate map is available on Page 12.)

A Hualien street in the Japanese Colonial Period (1895-1945). The peoples of Taiwan and Yonaguni share an affinity due to common history.

the relationship. This case is quite rare for this size of municipality. Yonaguni’s relationship has so far been limited to cultural exchanges as a first step for the mutual understanding needed for a closer economic relationship. As part of the exchange program associated with the sister city affiliation, Yonaguni town has sent students to Taiwan and held Chinese-language classes. It is not only City Hall but also the people of Yonaguni who think that a partnership with Taiwan can contribute to the future of the island.

One of the main obstacles to further development of this relationship is national policy over the East China Sea area. Despite the geographical and emotional closeness with Taiwan, a complicated relationship between Tokyo and Taipei has prevented any mean-

“This historical closeness with Taiwan and the Taiwanese is still within the living memory of many people on Yonaguni.”

Public support In questionnaires administered by city officials, 68 percent of respondents answered that the city should continue homestay projects in the future. Moreover, 73 percent of people think that the town should hold Chinese-language teaching classes. Taiwan can be one of the answers for Yonaguni’s economic future, and respondents to the survey appear to share the view that the goal of forging close economic relations with Taiwan is a laudable one.

ingful advancement of Yonaguni’s access to Taiwan. Moreover, recent Chinese naval activity around the East China Sea has forced the Japanese government to reconsider policy on these remote islands. For the Japanese government, the island’s management is not primarily an economic-development issue, but one of security. As a result, Yonaguni has leveraged its position to push for another avenue of development: specifically, a greater role in Japanese national defense policy. Summer 2013 Special Issue  43

Woodblock triptych depicting the Japanese navy victorious off Takushan during the First Sino-Japanese War. The historic conflict between China and Japan has made life difficult for the Yonaguni islanders.

The Diaoyutai/Senkaku Islands dispute with China and Taiwan has raised the profile of Yonaguni and highlighted the island’s security problem to virtually every Japanese citizen. Suddenly, Yonaguni became a candidate for hosting SDF facilities.

issue. The Japanese Defense White Paper in 2012 described this perception: “Maintaining the security of these remote islands, waters, and EEZs is a matter of national sovereignty, in other words, a matter of protecting the territorial

The Yaeyama archipelago, which includes Yonaguni Island, has no US Military bases or Japanese SDF facilities, and has long been a vacuum for Japanese security policy. Since Japan is an island nation which consists of many small islands, the security even of one of these islands becomes a national sovereignty

integrity and sovereign rights of Japan. In order to prevent armed attacks against these areas, it is important that Japan accept the cost of, and secure, dynamic deterrence in the peacetime. Since most of the remote island areas do not have adequate defense forces, these territories as well as freedom of maritime

44  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

artist: Ogata Gekko (1859–1920)

use may be threatened.” Given the current circumstances, it seems hard to defend the remote Okinawan islands. The Japanese Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF) Western Army Infantry Regiment (WAiR) is in charge of the de-

quently shown be active in the Diaoyutai/Senkaku waters, WAiR’s area of coverage is huge, and defense of the remote Okinawan islands thus becomes an even greater concern. The start of the relationship between the island and

fense of remote islands in the Kyushu and Okinawa area. Founded in 2002, this regiment was originally planned to be stationed in Okinawa, but considering the pervasive anti-military sentiment among the locals in Okinawa, it was decided to base the regiment in Sasebo, Nagasaki. Since the Chinese are fre-

the SDF was disaster-prevention training in 2003, after which the JGSDF supported the holding of a marathon on the island, bringing the soldiers and townspeople close. In terms of security, Yonaguni is practically a weapons-free zone, with only two armed policemen to maintain law and order. In 2008, the Summer 2013 Special Issue  45

done by March 2015.

graphic: MOD Japan

Yonaguni town council resolved that they would invite SDF facilities to the island. In the town’s mayoral election the following year, one candidate who was a huge proponent of the SDF invitation, incumbent Mayor Moriyoshi Hokama, was elected.

Deployment After negotiations between Yonaguni Island and the MOD, an SDF deployment plan was provisionally agreed upon in June, 2013 that would see the military send 100 personnel to the island. During the Units assigned to U.S. Army, Japan negotiations, the rental fee of the land was decreased from Yonaguni’s initial asking price of 1 billion yen to 15 million yen. This offer by Yonaguni received widespread criticism from around the country. Deployment is expected to be 46  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

For Yonaguni, security is not the priority. Rather, revitalizing its economy is the primary aim. In a newspaper interview, Yonaguni town’s Mayor Hokama put his finger on Yonaguni’s dilemma: “We have been working on the exchange with Taiwan (for economic development), but we have exhausted every possible means. The only way is to rely on SDF. Attraction of SDF is an economic policy for the island. I don’t care about the deterrent in security policy.” The island has been suffering from a steady population decline, whereas if the SDF comes to the island, this will contribute, even just marginally, to a population increase and hence added tax revenue. Yonaguni town requested that, as much as possible, the SDF staff bring their families. Moreover, the SDF promised to bring medical doctors to contribute to the overall quality of life of the local people of Yonaguni, where currently there is only one clinic. On August 11, 2013, graphic: US Army Yonaguni town’s Mayor Hokama—who has been pushing for the SDF deployment—was re-elected for a third term in office. The main issue in this election was the SDF invitation to the island. Since he was re-elected, the SDF

deployment plan can be accelerated. However, the results of the vote were nearly split, at 553: 506; hardly giving Hokama a mandate. The town remains split today. Nevertheless, the SDF deployment is under way: Yonaguni and the MOD have decided to prepare land for the SDF on the island. Few choices are left to Yonaguni as it seeks economic development. Existing restrictions from the national government have impeded the development of a closer relationship with Hualien several times in the past. Yonaguni, after all, chose to seek economic benefit from the national government by renting out its land for SDF facilities. At the international level, regional circumstances in the East China Sea, such

has been seeking to boost its economy through a closer relationship with Taiwan and Taiwanese. However, the city diplomacy of Yonaguni leaders is

“Yonaguni is not free from the difficulties imposed by the crossstrait relationship.”

not free from the nation’s foreign and defense policies. The answer Yonaguni chose was inviting the SDF. Yonaguni surely has not given up on its plan of economic development, nor of using relations with photo: Michael Russell

Members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s Western Army Infantry Regiment conduct small arms weapons training aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu.

as economic cooperation between China and Taiwan, decrease Hualien’s motivation for a closer relationship with a small, foreign island of Japan. Moreover, China’s increasing blue-water activities are making Japanese policymakers rethink their security policies pertaining to the East China Sea. Both the sister city affiliation with Hualien and the attraction of the SDF were motivated by an aspiration for economic development on the island. Yonaguni

Taiwan as a foothold to that end. Even though the local community hopes to make a “self-help” economic policy, Yonaguni’s plan for economic development will continue to be impacted by national and international circumstances. b About the author Taro Kurokawa is a PhD candidate at National Chengchi University’s International Doctoral Program in Asia-Pacific Studies. He can be reached for comment at

Summer 2013 Special Issue  47

Dead Reckoning

Navigating the choppy political waters of East Asia requires an understanding of Chinese motivations by Dean Karalekas


s regional defense ministers met in late August to discuss the issues pertinent to security in the region, at the top of that list are the many maritime disputes that continue to fester in the Asia-Pacific. While the international media generally present the issue as being one of multiple claimants in a hodgepodge of territorial disputes, in fact most regional stakeholders have but a single viable counterclaimant: China. Westerners often regard the increasing hostility of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the region as bullying, but this is too simplistic an explanation, and one that betrays our own cultural perspectives. As we seek to understand Beijing’s actions in the East and South China seas, it is worth remembering the

old adage from cultural anthropology that “there is no ‘common’ in common sense.” What makes sense in one cultural context is counterintuitive in another. Thus we must factor in a cultural component into our calculation of causes. China is a great culture, with 5,000 years of history. So goes the preamble to so many reports on the PRC. In fact, China does not see itself as one country among many, much less as one among equals. There are no countries equal to China; there are those that are greater and those that are lesser. This pecking order dictates the way in which China will deal with them. Those that are greater must be treated with deference—at least for the time being—while those that are lesser can, on that basis, be intimidated with impunity. In the West, notions of equality and fairness have woven their way into the very fabric of our DNA,

Heightened activity aboard the USS George Washington during a trilateral exercise in the East China Sea with South Korea and Japan.

48  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

and thus this hierarchical outlook is anathema. Many commentators are more comfortable imbuing China’s motives with our own conceptions of international relations: realpolitik, for example. In truth, the “rational actor” theory fails in application because rationality and the reckoning of cost and benefit is subject to the aforementioned anthropological dictum, and thus the math comes out differently when it is calculated on the abacus rather than the calculator. Not wrong, mind you, just differently, and the sooner policymakers understand this concept, the better informed and prepared they will be to deal with the changes that are shifting the face of Asia. The PRC’s handling of littoral disputes over the past three years has drifted toward the antagonistic end of the spectrum. Leaders in Beijing have shelved their previously prominent PR campaign of China’s “peaceful rise,” meant to placate nervous neigh-

photo: Jennifer A. Villalovos

bours as it gained in economic, diplomatic and military strength, to one of increasing hostility and intimidation. China’s actions are driven by one factor—the desire to minimize chaos—and two components: distrust and ambition. Chinese history demonstrates that chaos is a dangerous state of affairs, and thus the distrust of an inherently chaotic international system, promoted by Western conceptions of liberal democracy that are, by definition, antithetical to the continued leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Thus, this leads to fear; the fear that China, always endeavouring to create buffers between itself and outside powers, is being encircled by encroaching Western nations through the spider’s web of security alliances in the Asia-Pacific. Add to this the ambition to reclaim what many in China consider the nation’s natural right to leadership in the region. More than a geopolitical necessity, this takes on the dimensions of a divine right, with the Mandate of Heaven resting upon the shoulders of the leaders in Beijing, and conferring upon them the responsibility to lead the region into a new era of peace and prosperity. Despite their actions, and the way they are perceived by cultures that do not share their philosophy, the CCP do not see their rule as despotic, but rather fair and just, and this benign rule

Summer 2013 Special Issue  49

is destined to displace the region’s current supplier of security public goods in the region, the United States. As outsiders, Americans cannot understand Asia, and their hegemony over the region is an affront to the natural order. Thus, after several hundred years of weakness during the Qing and early CCP periods, it is time for China to become ascendant once again, as it was during the Ming and Song dynasties. Once, China sat at the center of a region that was politically defined by the tributary state system in which China held suzerainty over the lesser states of Asia. This system, and on this scale, varies greatly from most of what was experienced in the project of building empires in the rest of the world, particularly in the West. Assurances that today’s China has no interest in expanding its empire are essentially correct: at least not in the Western conception of how that enterprise would proceed. Here we come back to distrust, as it is only through strict control over the states in the The Ming Dynasty at its greatest extent, under the Yongle Emperor.

map: Louis le Grand

50  Strategic Vision Maritime Disputes

region that the inherent chaos of the international order can be kept at bay in this part of the world. Thus the goal is to remove the US hegemony in the region and supplant it with China’s.

“Taiwan is in an unenviable position, and one harder for Westerners to understand.” Of course, the age of empire is long over, as is that of its little brother, the age of colonialism. Arguably, the relations between states in the new international order has evolved in such a way as to be perfectly congruent with a method of hegemony with which China is historically experienced—the aforementioned tributary state system.

Shifting the status quo Another factor mudding western analysis of Chinese actions is the means of achieving this end—it is, by necessity, a long-term project from the Asian perspective. While the West still largely considers the application of influence one that involves rapid changes—of political systems, regimes, and alliances—the Chinese perhaps rightly see it as a gradual, almost glacial, shifting of the status quo. This explains China’s saber-rattling around the disputed land formations of the Asian littoral, but not why shots have yet to be fired, and why the PRC seems amenable to certain resource-sharing schemes. In fact, Beijing prefers to win without fighting. It does not want to occupy the islands so much as it wants the various claimants to accede to its territorial control over them. These incidents of nearly coming to blows with counterclaimants are only meant to “show them who is boss.” In September 2010, China showed Japan who is boss in an incident near the Diaoyutai/Senkaku Islands. In

June 2010, China showed Indonesia who is boss over the Natuna Islands. In March 2012, China showed Vietnam who is boss in an incident regarding the detention of Vietnamese fishermen surrounding the Paracel islands. In April 2012, China showed the Philippines who is boss in the naval standoff at the Scarborough shoal. Each of these incidents, in and of itself, was relatively minor, but the cumulative effect is to slowly have the nations of the region come to accept China’s presence in the waters of the Asia-Pacific, and to give them a wide berth. The recent amalgamation of China’s various government agencies involved in marine enforcement into a single, armed Coast Guard is an efficient and palpable way to show the flag throughout the region. Taiwan is thus in an unenviable position, and one harder for Westerners to understand. On the one hand, Taipei receives the brunt of Chinese intimidation tactics, with about 1,600 missiles permanently aimed at the island, a growing People’s Liberation Army, increasing capacity for amphibious assault, and a refusal to renounce the threat of force to annex Taiwan into the PRC. On the other hand, there are many power-holders in Taiwan who share China’s cultural paradigm. Taipei, too, does not see the Republic of China (ROC) as a nation among equals, but rather as holding a position within the hierarchy of nations. In fact, it underplays its hand, thinking of itself as a small power whose affairs are unavoidably dictated by the region’s great powers, such as China, Japan and the United States.

Guang Da Xing incident When it does deal with nations it considers small or inferior, it behaves not very much unlike the leaders in Beijing. Witness the recent contretemps with the Philippines over the slaying of a Taiwanese fisherman in waters claimed by both countries. The adminis-

tration of President Ma Ying-jeou imposed various restrictions on Manila and issued an ultimatum on the satisfaction of its demands. It did not do this because it was the right thing to do: it did this because the Philippines is considered a lesser country, and culture. Taipei would never, for example, issue an ultimatum to Beijing.

Middle-power status Taipei must recognize that Taiwan is a middle power on a par with South Korea, with the population size and economic might that could allow it to punch above its weight, if only it chooses to leverage these strengths. As has been discussed, the gradual slide of the status quo in Beijing’s favour illustrates that Taipei is getting nowhere by placating Beijing in the hopes of being allowed more international space. Indeed, Taipei today enjoys less international space than it did before the vaunted diplomatic truce was tacitly agreed to in 2008. Taipei might instead begin insisting on a more concrete quid pro quo from Beijing, using the same mettle it demonstrated in its recent diplomatoc row with Manila. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen as long as Taipei, too, continues to think of itself as holding the mandate of heaven, and of its people as being descendants of the Yan and Yellow Emperor. As a result of this perspective, Taipei identifies less with the other countries in the region who find themselves opposing China, and more with China itself. Taiwan allows itself to be treated like a tributary state of the PRC because, from that shared cultural paradigm, that’s fair: China is the greater country, and Taiwan the lesser. This is the natural order writ in international relations. b About the author Dean Karalekas is a researcher with National Chengchi University’s Doctoral Program in Asia-Pacific Studies and executive editor of Strategic Vision. He can be reached for comment at

Summer 2013 Special Issue  51

Visit our website:

Profile for Strategic Vision

Strategic Vision, Special Issue 1  

Strategic Vision is a magazine put out by NCCU's Center for Security Studies and the ROC National Defense University that provides analysis...

Strategic Vision, Special Issue 1  

Strategic Vision is a magazine put out by NCCU's Center for Security Studies and the ROC National Defense University that provides analysis...

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded