The China-Japan Dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands


I think a key in all this is the links between Governor of Tokyo Shintaro Ishihara and US rightwing circles. All the rapid escalation that is happening now, is the result of Ishihara’s speech at the Heritage Foundation in April 2012 where he first floated his idea of buying the islands for Tokyo.

Troubled Seas: Japan’s Pacific and East China Sea Domains (and Claims)

Gavan McCormack

The memory of the disastrous path onto which Japan was led over eight decades ago by insistence on “positive diplomacy” to defend the “lifeline” of inalienable territorial rights in “Man-Mo” (Manchuria-Mongolia), and ultimately China proper, has faded in Japan, but in China it is not forgotten. The uncompromising repetition of today’s no less strident but vacuous formula of koyu rights to Senkaku/Diaoyu is noted with foreboding. The fact that it is almost precisely echoed in territorial claims on all sides—by China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan), Japan and Korea, and by the South China Sea states in respect of that region’s maritime zones—makes it difficult to be optimistic of any easy or early resolution.

The unfolding of the events of 2012 showed just how easily public opinion can be inflamed. The self-righteous insistence on exclusive ownership, by any of the three state parties or, indeed, by the “World Chinese Alliance,” is unlikely to offer a way to convert the East China Sea into one of “Peace, Cooperation and Friendship.” As one looks in vain on all sides for some trace of the political wisdom and vision to declare such a program, it grows the more likely that, should it surface, it would be denounced as “weak-kneed.” While the Japanese (and international) media denounce China for its “increasingly narrow-minded, self-interested, truculent, hyper-nationalist” stance,79 and refer to China in the context of the ocean territorial disputes of 2012 as having “thrown down the gauntlet,” 80 in many quarters Tokyo’s uncompromising and belligerent tone passes without comment……..

Intent on maintaining strategic and tactical superiority over China and defying its “A2/AD” aspirations in advance, the US in 2010 developed what it refers to as its “Air-Sea Battle” concept, followed early in 2011 by the “Pacific Tilt” doctrine. The commitment under the former to coordinated military actions across air, land, sea, space, and cyber space to maintain global hegemony and crush any challenge to it, and the shift under the latter of the US’s global focus from the Middle East and Africa to East Asia have profound implications for Okinawa. From the Chinese viewpoint the Okinawan islands resemble nothing so much as a giant maritime Great Wall intervening between its coast and the Pacific Ocean, potentially blocking naval access to the Pacific Ocean. For Okinawa it means that those islands become nothing less than a “front line.” Parts of the island chain, including notably the Miyako and Yaeyama (Yonaguni, Iriomote, and Ishigaki) island groups might be seen as fronting, if not straddling, the First Chinese line, while the Miyako strait (between Okinawa Island and Miyako Island), offers a crucial access path for Chinese naval forces to and from the Pacific, through waters which Japan concedes are international (or “open seas”) but within Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Okinawans note grimly that the implications of the two doctrines – dispersal of US forces to locations at or beyond the “second line” (Guam, Tinian, the Philippines, Hawaii, and northern Australia) where vulnerability to Chinese missile or naval attack might be minimized – are that the front-line role assigned to Okinawa is assumed to carry a high degree of vulnerability.

Mounting tension:
Hong Kong newspaper:  recent demos in Tokyo. Note the slogans IN ENGLISH clearly intended for Korean and Chinese TV.

China willing to risk ‘conflict’ as it claims waters around Senkakus

Yu Zhirong, a senior official of the State Oceanic Administration who was formerly with the People’s Liberation Army Navy, told The Asahi Shimbun: “We will have to chase off Japan Coast Guard vessels from Chinese territorial waters. We are not fearful of risking a minor conflict.”


ANALYSIS: From China’s viewpoint, Japan should have kept isles problem shelved

But officials in China’s foreign ministry feared that things would spiral out of control if Japan and China began openly clamoring for ownership of the islands.

“What we are calling for is to maintain the status quo,” said one ministry official shortly before Japan purchased three of the Senkaku Islands from their private owner.

China believes Japan has opened a Pandora’s box by moving to purchase the islands.

“Japan reneged on a tacit understanding,” said a researcher at a government-affiliated think tank in China.



Sunday, Sep. 16, 2012

Anti-Japan rallies expand to 85 cities

Protesters clash with Chinese riot police as demonstrations enter sixth day

On Saturday, more than 80,000 took to the streets in at least 57 cities to denounce Japan’s nationalization of the islands, marking the largest anti-Japan protests since the two countries normalized diplomatic relations in 1972. (NB 40 years ago)
“These irrational moves can actually escalate the crisis between the two nations, and may be what the Japanese rightwingers are expecting to see,” Liu Jiangyong, vice dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing, was quoted as saying in the Sunday issue of the China Daily.  EXACTLY!
Sunday, Sep. 16, 2012

Nishimiya, top envoy to China, dies in hospital

Nishimiya, 60, collapsed near his home in Tokyo and was hospitalized on Thursday — only two days after becoming the top envoy to China. The cause of his death has not been determined….Nishimiya was found lying unconscious on a street near his home in Shibuya Ward by a passerby. Police have ruled out foul play.

Japan Frets over U.S. Support in China Dispute

By Kirk Spitzer September 14, 2012
For an officially pacifist country, Japan has a deceptively large and powerful military. More than 250,000 of its men and women are in uniform, and its annual defense spending is the 6th highest in the world. Its maritime forces bristle with modern submarines and surface warships……

“The PLA Navy is aware of its limitations, and they don’t want to get a beating from the Japanese,” says Patalano, who presented a series of lectures in Beijing and Tokyo this month. “The more likely scenario would be for China to insert special forces under cover of night, by parachute or other means. When the Japanese wake up in the morning and see Chinese soldiers on one of their islands, what do they do then?”

Brad Glosserman, executive director of the Pacific Forum CSIS in Honolulu, says there’s little doubt that the U.S. would respond if shooting were to break out between China and Japan. The key, Glosserman says, is to make sure the Japanese know exactly what they can count on from the U.S. — and what, if anything, they can’t.

“The U.S. will be there, because if we aren’t, our credibility is shot and the Japanese will never trust us again. That would transform the regional security environment, and the Chinese will think they have carte blanche,” says Glosserman. “But the problem is, do Americans and Japanese agree on what ‘being there’ means? Does that mean submarines? Surface warships? Helicopters with Marines rappelling to the ground? The Americans need to understand what the Japanese expect of them, because failure to do those things could cause big problems.”


Japan’s territorial disputes: will they lead to constitutional change?

Author: Rikki Kersten, ANU Sept 12

Thank you for your post. Ishihara did have an ulterior motive to go to Washington. He wanted to lobby some in the U.S. Congress directly for a conversion of USFJ Yokota Airbase into a joint military-civilian airport — a hobby horse he has been pursuing for many, many years. 

(Terry – a very good overview article of the Senkaku/Diaoyu problem and of Ishihara’s sheer gross irresponsibility)

Outspoken and bold when addressing China, the courage of Ishihara and other Japanese politicians and media figures appears to desert them when facing the United States, whether over Senkaku/Diaoyu or indeed even over Ishihara’s own domain in the Metropolis of Tokyo, where the little-used 700 hectare Yokota base sits on a prime site and the US Air Force maintains control over significant sections of the national capital’s air space.


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