PENGJIA ISLET — As two F-16 fighter aircraft flew over Pengjia Islet, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou told journalists that Taiwan was reaffirming its sovereignty over the islets, which were only 33 nautical miles from Taiwan’s northern port of Keelung.
Though Ma’s visit on Sept. 7 appeared to be a show of force, it was actually part of a campaign unveiled on Aug. 5 to initiate the East China Sea Peace Initiative centering on the disputed Japanese controlled Tiaoyutai Islands, known as the Senkaku Islands to Japan.
The East China Sea Peace Initiative calls on all sides to refrain from antagonism, observe international law and resolve disputes through peaceful dialogue.
“China claims Pengjia indirectly through its claim of Taiwan,” said Dustin Wang, professor, National Taiwan Normal University, who was also on the islet. Japan makes no claim to Pengjia, but does control the uninhabited Tiaoyutais. The Tiaoyutais are 120 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan and 200 nautical miles southwest of the Japanese island of Okinawa. China and Taiwan dispute Japan’s claim and there has been tension over the issue for several years.
The East China Sea Peace Initiative proposes that all three parties discuss the issue and reach an agreement that allows for peaceful joint exploration and development of resources around the islands.
“The National Security Council came up with the initiative as a way to promote peaceful development, Wang said.
Ma said that while national sovereignty cannot be divided, natural resources could be shared.
The area around the Tiaoyutais is believed to contain sizeable oil reserves and the waters already provide rich fishing resources.
On Pengjia itself, the islet has largely been ignored by Taiwan, though it does have some personnel stationed there, including four members of the Central Weather Bureau, seven Customs officials and eight Coast Guard personnel. There are no heavy arms or fortifications on the islet, but Coast Guard personnel are allowed the use of small arms, said a Customs official. There are no civilians living on the island.
“Ma is here to show our peaceful sovereignty of the islet,” he said.