DONGSHA ISLAND — A research fellow of Academia Sinica, Taiwan’s highest research institute, said yesterday that the government should use a “smart power strategy” to defend Taiwan’s South China Sea sovereignty claims.
Song Yann-huei, an expert on South China Sea issues, made the comments at a Dongsha Island sea safety and ecosystem camp organized by the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) and the Ministry of Education (MOE).
The camp for students is designed to give participants a better understanding of the government’s efforts to defend its sovereignty claims in the disputed region.
Asked how Taiwan should respond to some countries’ military buildup in the region, Song said it will become increasingly important to combine military power with diplomatic persuasion in the future to protect the nation’s sovereignty claims.
While upgrading military capabilities is a necessity for any country, it will also increase tension in the region and is not helpful in maintaining peace, Song said.
Song said Taiwan has done an excellent job in demonstrating its “soft power” on Dongsha, also known as the Pratas Islands, pointing to the massive funding the government has invested in the South China Sea, as well as the various camps organized by the government to help ordinary citizens learn more about the issue and to drum up public support for the government’s policies on the region.
He recommended that the next step for the Marine National Park Headquarters’ ecosystem and ocean technology research institute on the island is to build a small desalination plant and transform the island into a “low carbon island “by retrofitting existing buildings with green technology.”
Song advised that the government should also host major ecological forums on the island and invite internationally acclaimed conservationists to attend such meetings.
This, he said, would provide a good opportunity for Taiwan to indirectly display its sovereignty, as well as to show its environmental conservation results and coordinate anti-pollution, rescue missions and anti-terrorism exercises.
The small coral atoll is located 400 km southwest of Taiwan. The term “smart power” refers to the combination of military force with diplomatic persuasion or “soft power” into a successful strategy and was introduced into international relations theory in 2003 by Joseph Nye, a distinguished professor at Harvard University and influential scholar in international relations.
The South China Sea is a hotspot in Southeast Asia, claimed in full or in part by Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines, all of whom have great interest in the rich oil, gas, mineral and fishery resources in the region.