The apparent killing of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine Coast Guard will only muddy the ongoing dispute in the South China Sea, giving the mainland Chinese more reason to assert their claims against the Philippines.
A 65-year old Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-cheng was shot by the PCG on Thursday morning as he operated 304 kim off the southern coast of Taiwan.
China’s hard-line Global Times writes:
Beijing’s next step depends primarily on how officials in Taiwan react – whether they have the courage to lift their “concern” to “strong condemnation” and whether they wish for help from the mainland.
Thus far, Taiwan’s attitude has remained warm despite frictions with other stakeholders. If they make representations to the Philippines themselves, this matter will end with nothing definitive, or perhaps at most, compensation from the Philippines.
If it is confirmed the Philippine navy is behind the shooting, the mainland should show its stance by intensifying navy activities in the disputed water between the mainland and Philippines.
Of course, if China can successfully back Taiwan here, it could have implication for the East China Sea, Senkaku-Diaoyu Island dispute, where Taiwan has forged an agreement with Japan over fishing right’s there. Should Taiwan countenance mainland China’s support or pressure, I imagine it would embolden Beijing to take actions to “support” Taiwan if a new dispute ever emerged between Japan and Taiwan.
The same Global Times piece notes:
Most of the analysts from the Chinese mainland speculated that because the Philippines was awed by the might of the Chinese mainland, it had vented its anger on Taiwan …
While North Korea absorbs the world’s attention (or at least the share of it apportioned to Asia), Japan and Taiwan have worked out a little deal that will give Taiwanese fishing boats access to the waters around the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. In exchange, the Taiwanese will expel Mainland Chinese fishing boats.
As per The Japan Daily Express…
Maritime experts believe that the Tokyo government was eager to sign a deal with Taiwan, which has only ever shown concern about the value of the waters to its fishing industry, in order to prevent it from partnering with mainland China to defend its claims. The agreement states that Taiwanese fishermen will be able to operate in waters within 19 kilometers (12 miles) of the disputed islands, which is part of Japan’s exclusive economic zone. Taiwan’s [minister Wang Jin-wang] says that the law states all other vessels entering the waters will be expelled.
Needless to say, the Chinese are not pleased. From our friends at The Global Times.
Although there has been no open cooperation between the mainland and Taiwan on the Diaoyu Islands issue, tacit understandings do exist. The strong stance from the mainland side in safeguarding the sovereignty of the islands has undoubtedly strengthened Taiwan’s status in its negotiations with Japan.
Taiwan alone cannot compete with Japan. As Taiwan seeks to maximize its interests, it won’t side with the mainland.
The Taiwanese authorities clearly know that the more tacit understandings they share with the mainland, the more respect Japan will pay to Taiwan’s interests. Totally splitting up with the mainland over the Diaoyu Islands issue would be a severe blow to Taiwan’s capacity to bargain with Japan.
So there you are. The latest wrinkle in the Senkaku-Diaoyu drama. Taiwan makes common cause with the Japanese on fishing rights, letting the Japanese come between Taiwan and mainland China.