Recent discontent from Taiwanese fishermen might have finally changed this. Accusing Taiwan of tuna fish "laundering", Japan has pushed for a ban on Taiwan fishermen. The result was a quota cut from 14,900 tons to 4,600 tons. Further sanction is expected in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, again led by Japan. Some in Taiwan have complained that their recent friendliness to Japan, restraints on fishing dispute in the East China Sea, and even some civilian support to Japan's right wing, as "hot face stuck onto a cold butt" (热脸贴上冷屁股).
However, things might start to change. Today Apple Daily reported Taiwan is finally getting serious on maintaining its control on some remote island, and a new airport is being constructed on Taiping Island (Itu Aba), the largest in Nansha (Spratly, for more infor see this).
- The airport in Taiping will be larger than that in Dongsha, it will allow for landing and taking off of C-130, F-16, Mirage-200, etc., and even air-force-1 of the president
The area of Taiping Island is only 0.41 km2, less than the size of vatican city (0.44). The runway will be about 1km long. So I expect some reclaimation has to be done. (latest report has it Taiping has 0.49 km2 now, having grown almost as fast as Kowloon pennisula. still the perimeter is about 3km, i.e. you can round it in 30-40 min walking)
But an airport there will also help to shorten the shift (3 month long today, and it costs over NT$40M and 8 days per trip by sea) of the 200 soldiers on the island, and help to deliver sick and injured fishermen in nearby sea. Rafts (see fig) are used today as the reefs stop ships from getting to close.
Perhaps the governments on both sides of the Taiwan strait could cooperate on these issues, especially if Ma could win the election in 2008. But even in CSB's tenure, this is an area he could work on to improve cross strait relationship, e.g., by offering to ferry the fishermen or sick soldiers from mainland, and hence recover from his recent election defeat.
The pressure on Taiwan's defense from the mainland will be eased, if the two governments could find some common interests and build trust with each other, especially if this involves the navy. This should be viewed (and approached) as defensive, instead of aggressive activities, because China has already signed a co-development accord with the neighboring countries regarding the Spratly. More trust and cooperation across the strait will greatly reduce the tension and possibility for a war. It would also help both sides to reduce extraneous spending in defense.
Update(Dec 15): Japan's proposal to further cut Taiwan's fishing quota were rejected in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, due to objection from PR China, and some Pacific Island nations (Marshall, Solomon) which were compensated by Taiwan for fishing in their EEZ. Some in Taiwan asked, "Can we now see who our real friend is?"
---Taiwan already has another smaller airport in South Sea, in Dongsha (Pratas) Island about 300km south of HK.
Which is locate on a circle coral ring.