Friday, September 14, 2012

China & Japan: Keep your eyes on these islands – there are more than goats at stake

There is a good chance that we will see violence erupt between a bellicose China and equally bellicose Japan over two small islands - known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China – that could lead to very strained relations between these two countries.
Chinese ships at the islands

Barren islands, inhabited by goats, leading to war between China and Japan?

How could that be?

Because of past wounds:

Japan has claimed the islands since 1895. The US took jurisdiction after the second world war and turned them over to Japan in 1972. But Beijing sees the purchase as an affront to its claims and its past calls for negotiations…
Protesters gathered outside the Japanese embassy in Beijing chanting: "Japan, get out of China."
With memories of the second World War stoking the flames:

The dispute has stirred up emotional memories of Japan’s brutal occupation that ended only at the close of World War II. While Japan routinely apologizes for its wartime actions, its politicians often anger China by visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, a memorial to Japan’s war dead, including top war criminals.
The dreadful first World War broke out when Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was shot dead in Sarajevo by Bosnian Serb assassins, who wanted to combine some of Austria-Hungary’s provinces with a Greater Serbia. One month later the world war broke out.

Will shots be fired over islands in the east? There are more islands in dispute in that troubled area:

China’s increasing assertiveness has also led to friction in the South China Sea, where Beijing’s claim to the world’s busiest shipping lanes overlaps with the territorial claims of the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. Meanwhile, Japan has been trading rhetorical salvoes with South Korea and Russia over separate island disputes left over from the end of the Second World War.
And there are treaty obligations which could suck America into a war with China in defence of Japan:

Any escalation of the confrontation could draw in players from around the region and beyond. The United States, which last year announced it was shifting its military focus away from the Middle East and towards Asia – in large part to deal with the perceived threat posed by a rising China – is bound by treaty to defend Japan from attack. U.S. diplomats have suggested that the treaty includes the Senkaku Islands, although experts are divided on whether the surrounding waters are also covered.
Somebody better send a few thousand copies of Getting to Yes to the Chinese and Japanese leaders.


  1. this is an international tough one...........
    let's see
    two counties ......
    ah ...two islands ........
    thats ONE EACH!!!!!!

  2. Nope, anon. The answer is negotiation (international law is very fuzzy on the topic of who owns what when it comes to islands and continents, and boils down to a requirement that the parties negotiate a mutually acceptable solution). If the first canons of international law are applied to these islands, then Korea might have a better position; but Korea is relatively weak.

    Best that cooler heads prevail and the parties put their heads together to negotiate a fair share of the oil and gas.

    An honest broker might help all sides to start interest-based negotiations rather than the position-based ones now taking place.

    But who could act as honest broker?

  3. Liberals and their obsession with being "honest brokers". China is claiming a huge swathe of the South China sea and is acting bellicosely towards several nations. It's like something we saw earlier last century: The South-East Asia Co-prosperity sphere.

    We don't need an "honest broker" "punching above its weight" or any other Liberal cliches. What we need is the strength to do what is right. When a criminal demands you give him your arm and leg we don't try to negotiate him down to just a leg. You'd probably object.

  4. Rat, you assume the facts are clearly as you state them to be; and your response is similar to the 'muscular' foreign policy that Hizzoner Harper espouses.

    But what if the facts are more convoluted? What if it is not clear in international law who is entilted to what? The current status of international maritime law seems similar, to me, to our own Supreme Court's admonition to the federal government to undertake legitimate discussions with First Nations on issues where their rights are involved ... In other words, jaw jaw jaw rather than war war war.

    Wars are easy to start, not so easy to contain, and not at all easy to stop.

    The USA could play the role of honest broker, but it is party to a treaty supporting Japan and might find itself at war with China should China forcibly appropriate the islands.

    Then who? Someone nominated by the EU?

    Or do we simply increase the size of armed forces in the area (America is going from 50% of the fleet to 60% in that neck of the woods), and hope that we don't have a Bay of Tonkin (deliberate or inadvertent)?

    With veto rights to 5 countries, the UN seems unable to be an honest broker when one of the superpowers is involved ...

    I am not sure 'what is right' in this case, Rat. Read how the Japanese official of troublesome history is trying to stoke a war over the islands - is that 'right'?

  5. Jaw Jaw is better than war war only so long as you don't jaw jaw your way into another invasion of Poland. Sometimes a little war war is better that a lot of war war.

    International maritime law is rather clear about territorial limits and my rudimentary map reading skills tells me that the 200 mile limit from the Philippines, for example, entitles them to the territory that the Chinese are claiming in the South China Sea. I could go on but the crux of the matter is China's aggressive and provocative actions both against Japan and the Philippines would indicate that talking is exactly what China wants. As long as weaker countries can't fight and stronger countries only talk China gets what it wants.

    There's lots of lebensraum out there.


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