Taiwan's president proposed a peace plan on Tuesday to defuse tensions in the resource-rich South China Sea resulting from China’s insistence on building artificial islands in the area.
President Ma Ying-jeou’s South China Sea Peace Initiative demands all sides set aside their territorial claims over the South China Sea and reach agreements on sharing resources.
Ma’s plan has been linked with a 2012 proposal he made for cooperation between Taiwan and Japan in the East China Sea.
"We emphasise that whereas sovereignty can't be divided, resources can be shared," Ma said in his speech Tuesday at an Asia-Pacific research forum in Taipei.
The main obstacle in front of the deal is that China might prefer to maintain its unilateral territorial claims over most of the South China Sea for strategic reasons.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have claims in the disputed waters. These neighbours of China do not favor a compromise as Taiwan does, and are unlikely to sign a possible agreement setting aside their claims.
Tensions rose this week in the region after an American military plane flew over the Chinese artificial island and Japan assured Vietnam and the Philippines that it will support their security against China’s growing presence in the region.
According to international law the South China Sea must remain open for shipping and flights but China claims that the US aims to prevent Chinese maritime expansion in the disputed waters.
Taiwan’s attempts to reduce the tension and urge a peaceful resolution in the area also reflect its position as a staunch ally of the US.
"We demand that freedom of navigation and overflight be respected in the South China Sea before a major conflict breaks out," Ma said.
The peace plan comes before the upcoming 2016 presidential election, and is likely to bolster Taiwan's ruling Nationalist Party after the opposition party launched a competing plan for the South China Sea, according to Joanna Lei, chief executive officer of the Chunghua 21st Century Think Tank in Taiwan.
President Ma has previously been criticised over a lack of foreign policy achievements.