Ma reaffirms Taiwan’s stance on maritime rights


President Ma Ying-jeou urged May 16 The Hague to recognize the status of Taiping Island as a bona fide island with requisite rights to a continental shelf and exclusive economic zone, adding that the international community should not turn a blind eye to any violation of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

At present, Taiwan is involved in two separate disputes over the status of Taiping Island and Okinotori reef in the Western Pacific, Ma said. “These claims hinge on the very definition of an island under [UNCLOS], and their outcome stands to influence the way maritime business is conducted the world over.”

The president made the remarks in a commentary published by The Wall Street Journal. It helps explain Taiwan’s stance on a case filed by the Philippines against mainland China to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague in which Manila is attempting to downgrade the legal status of Taiping Island to that of a mere rock.

“Taiping Island, the largest naturally formed land feature in the Nansha [Spratly] Islands, covers an area of 0.51 square kilometers. It has ample natural fresh water. It has arable land, with natural and fertile soil that produces more than 10 species of fruits and vegetables,” he said, adding that Taiping Island supports livestock while boasting evidence of a century of human habitation and economic activity.