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China, Taiwan Warming to Military Cooperation in the South China Sea?

Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011

The Taiwanese government of President Ma Ying-jeou has denied that it harbors plans for siding with Beijing in territorial disputes over the South China Sea. Yet the notion that the resource-rich and strategic waters should be the starting point for cross-Strait military cooperation is gaining traction on the island.

Since last year, the People's Liberation Army Academy has repeatedly called for cooperation with Taiwan in protecting "common ancestral rights" in the region's disputed waters. At the same time, China has regularly invited retired Taiwanese military brass to cross-Strait symposiums where cooperation in the South and East China Seas as well as over the disputed Diayutai Islands -- administered by Japan as the Senkaku -- is frequently a prominent topic. From a Chinese perspective, as long it is firmly placed under the "one China principle," the offer of such cooperation is plausible, and not only because the territorial claims made by Beijing and Taipei are all but identical. With confidence growing on the Chinese side that unification will eventually come about, for Beijing, Taipei is a useful placeholder for the Dongsha/Pratas Islands and Taiping/Ibu Ata Island, both presently controlled by the Taiwanese. ...

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