President Ma proposes a peace initiative as a resolution to the South China Sea dispute; DPP Chairperson Tsai begins her 12-day U.S. visit on Friday; Ma reportedly will make transit stops in the U.S. on the heels of Tsai’s visit; Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu could become the KMT presidential nominee if she garners sufficient support in an upcoming poll. Welcome to this week’s edition of the Insider.
► SOUTH CHINA SEA DEVELOPMENTS
MA PROPOSES PEACE INITIATIVE: President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on Tuesday called in all countries to put aside their differences and promote the joint development of resources in a “South China Sea peace initiative.” Ma said Taiwan was willing to exploit resources in the South China Sea in cooperation with others based on the principles of safeguarding sovereignty, shelving disputes, pursuing peace and reciprocity. The initiative appears to be a duplication of Ma’s East China Sea Peace Initiative in 2012, which the president has called “a success.” The U.S. said on Tuesday it welcomed the proposal and appreciated Taiwan’s call on claimants to exercise restraint.
DPP QUESTIONS PEACE INITIATIVE: Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) affirmed on Tuesday that her party would seek to resolve the dispute on the basis of international law, particularly the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), adding that under a DPP administration Taiwan would not give up Taiwan’s (that is, the Republic of China’s) sovereignty over its territory in the South China Sea. Tsai refuted media reports that the DPP was ready to give up Taiwan’s territorial claims in the South China Sea if it won the presidential election, and demanded that Ma clarify whether his proposal presages a unified stance with China against other claimants. Ma said Taiwan’s claims over the disputed South China Sea are in line with international law, and criticized Tsai’s question as “possessing not even an ounce of common sense.”
► PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
TSAI VISIT TO US: DPP Chairperson Tsai will embark on a 12-day trip to the U.S. on Friday with a 50-member strong delegation, including dozens of reporters. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton said on Thursday that Washington welcomes Tsai’s visit and hopes to learn from her about her vision for taking U.S.-Taiwan relations forward. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel said last Thursday that the U.S. neither takes sides nor “takes actions that would imply that we are taking sides” in Taiwan’s elections, but “wants to hear from the candidates what their policy is, what their strategy is” in areas where the U.S. had interests and views, and thus “ looks forward to Tsai’s visit and looks forward to hearing what it is that she has to say.”
Meanwhile China reiterated its stance opposing any activity that engages in the promotion of Taiwan independence in the international arena. Sun Yafu (孫亞夫), deputy director of the Taiwan Affairs Office under China’s State Council, made the remarks on Monday in response to Tsai’s trip and her views on cross-strait relations. According to reports, groups of individuals with possible ties to organized crime will “greet” the DPP delegation at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport prior to their departure.
KMT PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY PAINS: Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) emerged on Monday as the only candidate qualified for the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential primary with sufficient signatures from party members. The other applicant, former health minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良), failed to meet the requirement. Hung is required to go through a public opinion poll, of which the KMT has yet to decide the approach, and must win the support of at least 30 percent of respondents before winning nomination. Should Hung fall short of the threshold, the party might opt to draft another candidate to run. The primary schedule marks June 13 as the last day of the poll.
KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) dismissed the possibility that the party could bypass its primary rules in order to draft a stronger candidate to run against Tsai. Some KMT politicians have been blunt in their portrayal of Hung as a “weak” contender and voiced concerns that Tsai supporters could “rig” the poll to ensure that Tsai does not run against a strong candidate. The same politicians called for Chu, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) to be included in the poll, even though all three have said they have no intention of running. Political analysts are also skeptical about the possibility of a last-minute KMT “trick” to dump Hung and directly recruit one of the three heavyweights.
EX-CHAIRMAN CHALLENGES ‘STATUS QUO’: Former DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) said last Friday that Tsai’s proposal to “maintain” the “status quo” was a mystery to him, and asked why it was so hard to follow the DPP charter on this issue. Tsai responded on Saturday that the idea of maintaining the “status quo” calls for open, transparent and fairer dealings in cross-strait affairs and public participation in policies, and thus does not contradict the Resolution on Taiwan’s Future in the DPP charter.
MA DENIES HOSTILITY AGAINST WANG, CHU: The Chinese-language Next Magazine reported that input from 10 strategists, including former National Security Council secretary-general King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) and Deputy Legislative Speaker Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), had prompted Ma to take a “tough stance” against a potential presidential bid by Wang Jin-pyng. The magazine also said that Ma was likely to “make Chu unable to continue with his chairmanship” of the party due to his “soured relationship” with Chu. The Presidential Office denied the report, saying that Ma “has never intervened in the KMT presidential primary.”
SHIH ONLINE SIGNATURE CAMPAIGN REJECTED: Veteran political activist Shih Ming-teh (施明德), who announced his presidential bid last week, launched a smartphone app to garner signatures and qualify as an independent presidential candidate. Although the legality of online electronic signatures is in question, Shih vowed to sue the Central Election Committee (CEC) if the commission “impeded his effort.” CEC Deputy Chairman Chen Wen-sheng (陳文生) said signature collection for independent presidential candidates must employ an official committee form displaying the names of the intended presidential and vice presidential candidates, and that the collection must be on paper for the verification of signatures.
Separately, Shih said on Monday that People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) would not run in next year’s presidential election, but that it was “not entirely impossible” that Soong would be his running mate.
► ELSEWHERE IN POLITICS
MA TRANSIT IN US: President Ma is expected to make transit stops in the U.S. before and after his visits to diplomatic allies in the Americas in July, possibly with a speech at Harvard University. If so, this would occur on on the heels of DPP Chairperson Tsai’s U.S. tour. Next Magazine reported that Ma’s presence in the U.S. was part of his administration’s tactics to “make some noise” to counter Tsai’s diplomatic efforts with the U.S. Ma is scheduled to take part in a digital video conference with academics from Stanford University on June 3, the same day that Tsai is to give a talk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington. Ma’s close aide, former National Security Council secretary-general King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), is scheduled to leave for the U.S. on July 2 before Ma makes his transit, according to the magazine. King dismissed the report, saying he has not been involved in politics.
CROSS-STRAIT POLICYMAKERS MEET IN KINMEN: Mainland Affairs Council Minister Andrew Hsia (夏立言) conveyed the public’s dissatisfaction with the inclusion of Taiwan in China’s pending National Security Law during his first meeting with Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍) last Saturday. Zhang brushed off the protest by saying that what was stated in the law about Taiwan was “in line with China’s policy.” Local media outlets also reported that Zhang had threatened to cut the “small three links” between outlying Kinmen and China, if Kinmen proceeds with plans to set up casinos to attract Chinese visitors. Hsia said on Wednesday that he had not heard any such comment from his Chinese counterpart, adding that the comments, if they were indeed made, would be “inappropriate.”
Separately, several individuals who were protesting against Zhang’s visit were injured in attacks by black-clad men (presumably gangsters) who had gathered to welcome the Chinese official.
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS: The KMT and the DPP agreed on lowering the electoral threshold for small parties’ representation in the legislature at a meeting of the legislature’s Constitutional Amendment Committee on Wednesday, with the KMT expressing concerns that “too many small parties in the legislature” could lead to legislative inefficiency as a consequence of their boycott of legislative proceedings.
MARITIME LAW AGREEMENT WITH MANILA: Taiwan and the Philippines will soon sign an agreement covering law enforcement cooperation in their overlapping economic waters. Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) made the remarks on Tuesday when asked about an incident a day earlier in which the armed Philippine Coast Guard intercepted and boarded Taiwanese fishing vessel in an area where the two countries’ exclusive economic zones overlap. Another Taiwanese fishing vessel was confiscated by the Philippines earlier this month, with its crew released on bail in the disputed area. Both sides have been negotiating an agreement since late 2013 to improve relations after a fatal incident in which the Philippine Coast Guard officers fired upon a Taiwanese fishing boat in 2013.
ECONOMIC GROWTH DECLINE: The government’s business monitoring system slipped to the “blue” zone last month, indicating the listlessness of Taiwan’s export-reliant economy, with the pace of the slowdown likely to worsen in the current quarter, according to the National Development Council on Wednesday. The blue rating had not been employed since September 2012 until last month.
EX- FED CHAIRPERSON VISITS TAIWAN: Former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke arrived in Taipei on Monday to join a forum with prominent Taiwanese business and economic leaders. A meeting between Bernanke, the first former Fed chairperson to visit Taiwan after the end of their term, with Taiwan’s central bank Governor Perng Fai-nan (彭淮南), took place before his participation in the event.
DPP COALITION WITH SMALL PARTIES: Former DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung lambasted the party last Friday for “failing” to yield sufficient electoral districts to the third political force — referring to the New Power Party (NPP) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) — for the proposed collaboration against the KMT in next year’s legislative election. In response, DPP Chairperson Tsai said her party would continue to communicate with smaller parties for the intended partnership. Meanwhile, NPP legislative candidate Hu Po-yen (胡博硯) said on Tuesday that his party would break away from the proposed coalition if the latter fails to pursue a partnership with opportunities to smaller parties on better terms, adding that the DPP was keen to the collaboration in exchange for support to DPP in next year’s presidential election by “the third forces.” The DPP denied any intended “trade-off” for the proposed collaboration. Hu withdrew from the NPP shortly after the party clarified on Wednesday that his statement did not represent the official position of the NPP.
► MILITARY AND SECURITY
US SENATE BILL BACKS MILITARY LINKS: The U.S. National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, which is currently under review by the U.S. Senate, contains a five-part clause urging U.S. President Barack Obama to help Taiwan build its own diesel-electric submarines and take part in an extensive range of military training programs, U.S. documents show.
DPP PROPOSES CYBER ARMY FOR NATIONAL DEFENSE: The DPP is in favor of creating a cyber army as the “fourth branch” of the armed forces, along with focused investment and government support to develop the nation’s defense industry, it said in its 2015 Defense Policy Blue Paper released Tuesday. Defense ministry officials said the National Security Act (國家安全法) could be amended for existing units of the armed forces to defend the nation’s digital territory.
MORE BLACK HAWKS: Taiwan has taken delivery of four more UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, part of a package of 60 aircraft from the U.S., after the second consignment was shipped to southern Taiwan Sunday, the Army said.
RCA, EX-WORKERS TO APPEAL: The decade-long legal battle between Radio Corp of America (RCA) and its former employees is expected to continue, as both parties intend to appeal the latest ruling on the case, in which the RCA was required to provide NT$560 million (US$18.2 million) in compensation to the workers exposed to workplace toxic organic solvents that could cause cancer. RCA has been adamant in its refusal to provide compensation, while former employees have criticized the ruling for being too lenient.
HYDIS UNION IN TAIWAN FOR CONTINUED PROTEST: Union representatives from South Korea’s Hydis Technologies Co Ltd, which was acquired in 2008 by Taiwanese e-paper manufacturer E Ink Holdings Inc, staged their third Taipei protest against the dismissal of more than 300 South Korean workers by a unit of the Taiwanese corporation. The widow of its leader who committed suicide earlier this month after reportedly receiving legal threats from Hydis management over criminal and civil charges was present in support of the protestors.
POSSIBLE ESTROGEN BAN IN COSMETICS: Authorities are studying whether to follow the EU’s footsteps in banning estrogen in all cosmetics as early as next year, due to concerns that it may cause endocrine disorders or cancer and pollute the environment, the Food and Drug Administration said Monday.
FARMLAND RESTRUCTURING: A policy is being formulated to reduce the size of rice fields nationwide to raise the price of exported rice and accommodate the cultivation of produce that would normally be imported, the Council of Agriculture said on Monday. Aiming at mitigating impacts to farmers that might accompany Taiwan’s admission into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the policy is to be completed in the next three years.
The Taiwan Insider is a weekly feature prepared by the Thinking Taiwan Foundation’s Chris Wang and staff members. Comments? Leads? You can reach us at email@example.com. Click here to subscribe to the Insider and receive it in your e-mail.
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