The South China Sea Disputes: Will Taiwan’s Role Be Enhanced?


HAIKOU (IPP Review) — For many years, Taiwan’s interests and role in the South China Sea disputes have essentially been officially ignored. But with the election of U.S. President Donald J. Trump and his appointment of John Bolton as National Security Adviser, its influence on and involvement in such issues may increase substantially.

Bolton in particular has a long history of supporting Taiwan’s interests. He has urged the restoration of formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan and that Taiwan be able to join the United Nations and its various agencies and committees. He has even suggested that the U.S. base troops and assets there.

Since 1956, Taiwan has continuously occupied the largest feature in the Spratlys — Itu Aba or Taiping island. It has more recently “militarized” it. It also claims sovereignty over all the other high tide features and their “relevant” waters.

Moreover, Taiwan has one of the largest fishing fleets active in the area and its coast guard and navy regularly patrol these waters to protect that fleet as well as Taiwan’s claims. But because of the One China policy, Taiwan has not been invited to participate in formal intergovernmental discussions on the issues, including the current critical negotiations on a “code of conduct” that would guide the actions of all in the area to avoid incidents. It thus has been relegated to heavy lobbying behind the scenes.