Chiang Huang-chih, Professor in the College of Law of National Taiwan University, in Liberty Times (February 22, 2021)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: Wang Yu-ching/Taiwan Presidential Office)
Chinese military ships and planes are entering Taiwan’s sea and airspace. In response, President Tsai Ing-wen has stated that “TAIWAN’ should be painted on patrol vessels to increase international visibility at sea. Some have opposed this decision, viewing it as propaganda that will not only be unhelpful but may even provoke Beijing and increase the risk of conflict. But there are a number of reasons why this may be a good move.
First, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates that the exercise of maritime law enforcement powers must be duly authorized and clearly marked. This helps ensure that any ship that violates the law can be held responsible.
Second, there is no denying that the situation in the waters surrounding Taiwan is becoming more tense, and there are many countries involved such as China, Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, and even the United States and South Korea. Taiwan’s missions in these waters would benefit from clearer labels so as to increase recognition of our maritime patrol work, avoid misunderstandings or disputes and improve the safety of maritime personnel.
Third, China’s Coastguard Law was formally passed in February 2021. Japan and the Philippines have protested, claiming that the legislation violates international law. To counter these threats and express Taipei’s commitment to complying with international law and maintaining regional peace, Taiwan should distinguish itself from the Chinese side through a clear external label.
Finally, regardless of whether this label is displayed, China’s intimidation towards Taiwan is unlikely to disappear. Taiwan should therefore choose to display positive images and strengths as determined by those in power and the intentions of citizens.
Making the label “TAIWAN” visible should lead to increased security and international recognition. The more steps Taiwan can take to highlight its own characteristics the better.