Some interesting stuff going on out there today. Wapo has a long article on the decline of Japan, one of several that have appeared recently. There is also a piece in Wapo by Jane Rickards of AmCham here on President Chen’s trip to the Spratlys:

Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian inaugurated a runway on one of the disputed Spratly Islands on Saturday and insisted the archipelago belongs to Taiwan despite claims by China and several other Asian countries.

Chen’s one-day round-trip voyage was designed to dramatize Taiwan’s claim to the string of islands with the kind of gesture for which he has become famous during more than seven years as leader of this self-ruled island. Disregarding other countries’ assertions, he declared the island he visited, Taiping Dao, “an intrinsic part of our territory,” according to a statement from his office.

“From the beginning, we have had our brothers in the military and coastal patrol stationed here, and we have in succession set up relevant atmospheric, humanitarian and ecological testing facilities, occupying and administering this island for half a century,” he added.

The Spratly Islands, more than 100 rocky islets, reefs and atolls in the South China Sea, are claimed in full or in part by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei. They are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and potential oil and gas deposits.

The stupidity of claiming the Spratlys, which simply stretch Taiwan’s forces for no real gain, is revealed in this citation:

Chen’s gesture drew an immediate protest from the Philippines. The Philippine foreign secretary, Alberto Romulo, said his nation expressed “serious concern” and called the inauguration ceremony “lamentable.”

“It is unfortunate that Taiwan is resorting to what may be considered as irresponsible political posturing that could be of no possible advantage to the peace-loving Taiwanese people,” Romulo said in a statement.

Yup. The Taipei Times reported today that Vietnam had also made a statement criticizing the visit. Time for Taiwan quit investing in something that can only bring it trouble and anger neighbors whose support we need. While we’re at it, we should hand back Jinmen and Matsu too….fortunately the Spratlys have not affected Taiwan’s friendship with the Philippines:

The Philippines representative to Taiwan, Antonio Basilio, said recently that the Philippines “will continue to enhance its ties with Taiwan,” downplaying controversy over the disputed Spratly Islands.

Basilio expressed concern over the visit but said Taiwan would remain a very important economic partner of the Philippines.

Noting that the Philippines and Taiwan are in the final stage of negotiations for an “Economic Corridor,” Basilio expressed confidence that the venture would help Taiwanese businesses tap markets in Southeast Asia once ASEAN implements a free trade agreement, from which Taiwan is excluded.

The Economic Corridor, based on a memorandum of understanding signed on Dec. 6, 2005, aims at linking the Subic and Clark Special Economic Zones in the Philippines with the Economic Processing Zones in Taiwan.

Basilio said that if Taiwanese businesses meet the “local content” criteria of the Philippines, their products will be considered products of the Philippines and will therefore be eligible for duty-free treatment in ASEAN.

In the other words, the Philippines is Taiwan’s back door to ASEAN when the free trade agreement is inked.

On the lighter side, the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis opened an embassy here last Monday:

Monday 28th January, 2008 marked a momentous occasion for the Government and people of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis as they opened an embassy in Taiwan (Republic of China). Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, the Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas stated, “Taiwan was the first nation to establish diplomatic ties with my country after we declared independence some 25 years ago, which is why it is an important event to open an official delegation here on the beautiful island”.

Just rubs our nose in the fact that Taiwan is not yet a full-fledged country, but a couple of small islands in the Caribbean…