China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
April 29, 2016
Executive Summary: "How can Taiwan possibly refuse to allow US pork imports?” COA chairman to be Tsao Chi-hung touched off a bombshell last week when he asked this question. He provoked public outrage and invited the well-deserved charge that the DPP reverses its position every time it changes from opposition party to ruling party. This was the reason president elect Tsai Ing-wen covered her bets with Washington before the election. Even more importantly, she covered her bets with Tokyo over the importation of irradiated Japanese agricultural and marine products. Needless to say, this warrants even greater public concern.
Full Text Below:
"How can Taiwan possibly refuse to allow US pork imports?” COA chairman to be Tsao Chi-hung touched off a bombshell last week when he asked this question. He provoked public outrage and invited the well-deserved charge that the DPP reverses its position every time it changes from opposition party to ruling party. This was the reason president elect Tsai Ing-wen covered her bets with Washington before the election. Even more importantly, she covered her bets with Tokyo over the importation of irradiated Japanese agricultural and marine products. Needless to say, this warrants even greater public concern.
US pork imports are not an urgent matter at the moment. US presidential candidates from both major parties oppose the TPP. The matter of Taiwan's accession to the TPP can be postponed until after the new US administration is in place. But the promises the DPP made to Japan must be fulfilled immediately. Ever since the DPP won the election, politicians from Japan and Taiwan have been shuttling back and forth between Tokyo and Taipei on a weekly basis. During nearly every meeting, the Japanese line up to demand an end to the ban on agricultural and marine products irradiated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Japan is eager to resume the exportation of agriculture and marine products from the nuclear disaster area to Taiwan. Powerful political interests are the key. Japan's senatorial elections will begin in July. The Liberal Democratic Party is eager for profits to ensure victory at the polls. Taiwan is one of Japan's largest food importers, second only to the United States. Naturally the LDP is concerned. Therefore Japan has exerted disproportionate pressure on Taiwan. It has even threatened us with bilateral reciprocal agreements. Two days ago, the Japanese government brutally seized a fishing vessel from Taiwan, the Dong Sheng Ji 16, at Chong Zi Niao Reef. This is probably an attempt to pressure Taiwan to resume importation of agricultural and marine products from the Fukushima nuclear disaster area.
Protecting the public by ensuring food safety and by restricting the import of certain products is a universal concern. Even Japan, which is pressuring Taiwan to resume importation of agricultural and marine products from the nuclear disaster area, demands it. Also, the WTO allows import restrictions and food safety measures, providing there is sufficient scientific support, and one's motive is not protectionism. The proof can be presented to the international community and general public. Radiation concerns remain unresolved. Taiwan is hardly alone in restricting agricultural and marine imports from these five prefectures in Japan. Korea, Hong Kong, the United States, and Mainland China have all banned food imports from Japan's nuclear disaster area. In fact, they have restricted imports from areas far from these five prefectures. They have restricted imports from as many as 13 prefectures. Japan has from time to time asked these governments to lift their bans. But radioactive seepage from the Fukushima region continues flowing into the sea. Last year products from Chiba were falsely labeled as coming from Tokyo. This made it difficult for the Japanese to demand that foreign governments lift their import restrictions.
Under the circumstances, Taiwan clearly has the right to institute food safety measures. The key is whether a scientific basis exists. Japan insists that radioactive contamination of agricultural and marine products from the five prefectures is no longer a concern. But so far the scientific tests have been conducted by Japan itself, not objective, authoritative third-parties abroad. Therefore our government must stand firm. Japan may not recognize our test standards. Our government need not rush to the front lines. It need not take a position on whether Japanese food is safe or not. Instead it should seek impartial third party opinions from the international community. This should determine whether agricultural and marine products from the nuclear disaster area are safe and import restrictions should be lifted. That will keep Japan from harping on the issue, and give Taiwan a chance to catch its breath.
More importantly, Taiwan must review its current approach of groveling before Japan. Japan claims an EEZ surrounding the waters of Chong Xi Niao Reef. Its claim flies in the face of international law. It is not recognized by any of Japan's neighbors. We do not recognize it as an “island”. Still less do we recognize Japan's claim of an EEZ. Unfortunately the government – long fearful for Taiwan-Japan relations -- has been afraid of drastic action. The new government sees Japan as a “friend”. Having long lost any sense of self, it reflexively surrenders without a fight, and lacks the courage to assert its rights. Japan takes advantage of Taiwan's weakness to do whatever it wants. The new government's ambivalence toward Japan merely encourages it to make trouble in order to exert pressure on Taiwan.
International relations must never mean unilateral concessions toward a “friendly” nation. On the contrary, too many concessions merely make the “friendly” nation insatiable. The international situation may be unfavorable to Taiwan. Our pro-Japan policy may be difficult to change. But Taiwan can still take advantage of global developments. It can still adopt a policy that balances the Mainland, the United States, and Japan. The Ma administration's "peace with the Mainland and friendship with the US and Japan" strategy obtained greater breathing space for Taiwan. Taiwan's status in the Western Pacific has been greatly enhanced. The new government may have no desire to continue Ma government policies. But it must demonstrate wisdom. It must understand the political situation in Japan. It must seek maximum advantage for itself, for the sake of the national interest.
Japan is pressuring us to lift food import restrictions. Behind this pressure lies hidden weakness. Therefore we must drive a harder bargain to achieve the best results. Providing the government can stand the pressure, Japan will makes the final concession. Therefore the new government must be decisive and resolute.
The Dong Sheng Ji 16 incident is an opportunity to discuss lifting the ban on agricultural and marine products from the nuclear disaster area, and aggressively fight for Taiwan's fishing rights in the relevant waters. Regarding the Chong Zi Niao Reef EEZ, the new government must firmly reject the Japanese government's spurious claims. It must dispatch ships to protect our fishing vessels. Only that will provide us with the necessary bargaining chips.
Groveling must not remain the way in which Taiwan habitually relates to Japan. Both the Ma government and the new government must adhere to this fundamental principle.