China’s relationship with Taiwan has been a bit bumpy ever since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen inauguration in May. However, it seems that the two governments have finally found some common ground, with both rejecting yesterday’s international tribunal ruling on the South China Sea.
In a long-awaited decision yesterday, The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague found that China’s vast claim over the South China Sea actually has no legal basis. Additionally, the court also decided that the Taiwan-held Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island), the largest natural feature in the contested Spratly chain, was really a rock rather than an island, and so would not quality for a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
Following China’s swift and complete rejection of the Hague tribunal ruling, Tsai Ing-wen issued an official statement on Facebook, stating that “Taiwan will no accept, nor recognize the legality of the jurisdiction… the Republic of China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands of the South China Sea and related territorial waters.”
Former Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou also voiced his anger, calling the decision “unfair and ridiculous.” Hung Hsiu-chu, leader of the opposition KMT Party, joined the fray later in the night, reaffirming Taiwan’s position. “We will not back down from this injustice,” she wrote.
Taiwan shares the very same South China Sea claim with the PRC. In fact, the “nine-dash line” that is the basis for the claim originates from the Republic of China (ROC) government in 1947. In 1949, the ROC fled to Taiwan and the PRC approved the “nine-dash line.” But Chiang Kai-shek never dropped his government’s claim on the territory either.
Since the Philippines filed its case against Beijing’s South China Sea claims with The Hague last year, Taipei has been left in an uncomfortable position. It is not a member of the United Nations or the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), so it was unable to insert itself into the case. Even Taiwan’s request to send an observer delegation to the hearings was denied.
Past Taiwanese leaders have taken a firm stance when it comes to sovereignty over the South China Sea. Both Chen Shui-bian and Ma Ying-jeou, despite their differences in ideology and political affiliation, have visited Taiping Island while president and reiterated Taiwan’s claims over the South China Sea.
On Wednesday morning, Tsai Ing-wen briefly boarded the naval warship “Dihua” to address the crew before it sets off to “defend the territory of Taiwan.” The warship will depart later today to patrol the disputed area, including Taiping Island, in a rebuke of the international court ruling. Sound familiar?
All this means that netizens on both sides of the strait are actually agreeing with one another. On Facebook, one Taiwanese Facebook user said that “We must cooperate with our secondary enemy, China, to fight against our primary enemy, the Phillippines.” Meanwhile, Chinese netizens on Weibo are calling for the creation of a “Chinese brotherhood united against foreign aggression.”
Oh boy, who saw this coming?