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Taiwan makes environmental push in disputed South China Sea

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Taiwan and China cite the same reason for their claims to the sea area, which encompasses 250 barely populated islets, a network of shipping lanes, and possible undersea reserves of oil and natural gas.

The Republic of China, Taiwan’s legal name, and its 1940s civil war adversary the People’s Republic of China both argue that the Chinese Navy was active in the sea during the Han and Ming dynasties. China, meanwhile, claims not only the 3.5 million square-kilometer ocean area but also Taiwan itself, and uses its might to forbid countries elsewhere in Asia from formal dialogue with officials in Taipei.

But since 2008, Taiwanese officials have sought to get along better with China after six decades of hostilities, another reason for their soft approach to the sea dispute.

Yet self-ruled Taiwan does not want to be forgotten by the more aggressive claimants, as it was in July, when China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed to South China Sea confidence-building guidelines. China, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines also claim all or parts of the South China Sea, including the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos and Taiwan’s ecological research zone.

“Ecological protection is a duty that the whole world respects,” says Coast Guard Deputy Minister Cheng Chang-hsiung. “In the face of disputes of course we hope to use soft power to express ourselves and let other countries understand our friendly intent. We hope to settle disputes peacefully and don’t want armed conflict.”

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