Taiwan president seeks "code of conduct" in E. China Sea

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou proposed Wednesday that all claimants to disputed areas of the East China Sea establish a multilateral negotiation mechanism to negotiate a "code of conduct" to avoid conflicts and misjudgments.

Ma, speaking at a conference on regional security, said he was making the proposal in light of China's move last November to declare an air defense identification zone over a vast portion of the East China Sea, including the Senkaku Islands administered by Japan and claimed by both China and Taiwan.

He said the mechanism should be set up on the basis of mutual trust and mutual benefit, with the main purpose being to negotiate a code of conduct among the claimants to advance sustainable peace and prosperity in the East China Sea.

Also, he said, the countries with overlapping air defense identification zones should begin bilateral negotiations on the issue, while they should take action to reduce the impact of overlapping zone on aviation freedom and security.

Ma said East Asian leaders must consider what is best for the region. "Is it peace and prosperity or conflicts and chaos?" he asked.

The president also reiterated proposals made in his "East China Sea Peace Initiative," which he announced in August 2012 amid rising tensions between Japan and Taiwan, and between Japan and China, over ownership of the Senkaku Islands, which Taiwan calls Tiaoyutai and China calls Diaoyu.

For example, he urged Japan, China and Taiwan to pursue joint development of natural resources, including oil and gas, in the East China Sea to pave the way for a peaceful resolution of their disputes.

He suggested a two-stage process where the three countries engage in bilateral talks first, then move on to trilateral negotiations.

Japan and the United States view China's air defense identification zone as a unilateral attempt to change the status quo in the disputed waters, and have refused to recognize it.

The sovereignty dispute between Japan and China heated up after the Japanese government bought major parts of the islet group from a Japanese citizen in September 2012, putting them under state control.

Since then, China has repeatedly sent its ships into Japanese-controlled territorial waters near the Senkakus to assert its claim to the uninhabited islets.