The Washington insider report The Nelson Report talks about the Diaoyutai mess from the US perspective, including worries about Ma’s ability to control his own people….and the backchannel discussions between Washington, Taipei, and Tokyo.


JAPAN/TAIWAN…observers actively involved in Taiwan affairs are expressing relief that President Ma today seems to have re-established a degree of adult supervision over extreme nationalist elements in his own KMT party…thus helping to defuse the maritime crisis boiling away since a June 10 incident with Japan.

US experts note that Ma was able to coordinate with his defense officials, blocking any further dispatch of boats to the Senkaku and/or Diaoyutai Islands…and then was able to prevent a delegation of KMT extremists from conducting a highly provocative “fact finding mission” to the region.

Our sources say that while the outcome for now must be credited to Ma, today’s actions came after “conversations, consultations, you name it, between Washington and Tokyo, Tokyo and Taipei, Washington and Taipei, and every combination…everyone talked to everyone.”

This, after the US had nearly 7 years of “difficult” relations with the independence-minded DPP government, and what President Bush himself perceived as a consistent failure by Taipei to take US interests into account.

This time, “We made clear we didn’t want this ‘politicized’,” an informed observer explains…a reference to the problems with the KMT.

Other observers admitted they were a little taken aback by language used yesterday by the State Department calling for a “peaceful” resolution of the standoff, explaining, “it’s a little worrisome that we didn’t call for a ‘diplomatic’ solution…it would seem to imply a genuine concern about the potential for violence…”

For what it’s worth, President Ma also picked-up on the word “peaceful”, rather than “diplomatic”, before he apparently took the actions which today, at least, seem to have calmed the waters.

US observers noted that Prime Minister Fukuda expressed “regret” over the original incident of the 10th, in which a Japanese Coast Guard vessel collided, and sank, a Taiwanese fishing boat which had ventured into the disputed waters.

So the US was pleased that Ma said he “agreed” with Fukuda’s statement that “both sides should remain calm”.

For the longer run, we should note that during our visit to Taiwan for the elections, in March, observers in Taipei expressed concern, and some frankly offered a considerable degree of doubt, that President-elect Ma would be consistently able to exert control over powerful senior KMT players.

Today, an observer here, looking at the overall situation, concedes “Japan has much reason to be concerned…”

Back during his Inaugural speech, Taiwan President Ma worried observers in both Japan and the US by not reading a paragraph praising Japan…a deliberate omission seen in some quarters as a harbinger of Ma’s determination to patch-up relations with Beijing regardless of Japan.

We mention that as there are some observers in the DPP who feel that the recent “invasion” of disputed off-shore islets and energy exploration areas by right-wing activists and KMT members was somehow orchestrated by China.

But most experts we mentioned this to say it seems unlikely, given China’s recent campaign to patch-up relations with Japan…as per the joint energy exploration deal being announced this week.


Think about it — US officials were pleased that “Ma was able to coordinate with his defense officials.” Ma’s position among his own people is so weak that it is notable he was able to give orders to his own officials.