dispute sowed by US
Japan's propaganda on the islands falls into US strategies to create and take advantage of tension in East Asia
By Feng Zhaokui (China Daily)
The Diaoyu Islands dispute was a disruptive mine planted by the United States into Sino-Japanese relations nearly four decades ago.
When the US decided to return the occupied Okinawa to Japan in 1972, the Diaoyu Islands and adjacent islets, which belong to China, were also handed over to Tokyo. In so doing, the US wanted to prevent China and Japan from getting too close and bring ties between the two countries under its control. Washington's viciously conceived move, a tactic often employed by imperialists, proved useful in serving its interests in the past decades.
The disputes between China and Japan over the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands have given rise to frequent friction between the two countries and have become a drag on their bilateral relations.
During a visit to Japan for the signing and exchanging ceremony of the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship in December 1978, a milestone document in Sino-Japanese relations, then Vice-Premier Deng Xiaoping successfully pushed the two countries to agree to "shelve bilateral disputes for a common development" on the Diaoyu Islands issue. The consensus became a de facto principle that China and Japan abided by in the following years.
However, Japan has time and again taken measures aimed at putting the Diaoyu Islands under its control since the 1990s. The Japanese government has often tried to instill into Japanese people the concept that the islands, which are called Senkaku within Japan, are an indisputable part of Japanese territory. The use of the propaganda machine for such a purpose has been so frequent that those in Japan who admit that the Diaoyu Islands belong to China have become the minority in the country. Disputes about the sovereignty of the islands have even become a taboo subject for the Japanese.
At a governors' meeting held in late May, when Japanese media made an outcry over the "buildup" of the Chinese navy and the so-called pursuit of a Japanese survey ship by a Chinese oceanographic survey vessel, Shintaro Ishihara, the governor of Tokyo who is notorious for his anti-Chinese remarks, challenged then prime minister Yukio Hatoyama's policy in this region.
"Is the Japan-US Security Pact applicable in the case of military conflicts in the waters surrounding the Senkaku?" Shintaro asked. After telling the mayor that the Japan-US security pact applies to the islands, Hatoyama added that the ownership of the Diaoyu Islands should be resolved through negotiations with China. Derogative remarks were made at Hatoyama and some Japanese media described Hatoyama's position as isolated. A number of netizens even denounced Hatoyama as a prime minister who would cause Japan to perish.
In a recent showdown between Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Ichiro Ozawa, the former head of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), for the party leadership, both played the China card. Pointing to Japan's disputes with China over the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands, Ozawa even claimed that the islands have never been China's territory since ancient times. Kan also said he believed that the activities by China's naval forces in the waters off Japan should require Japan's vigilance and that Tokyo should deploy self-defense forces in its southwestern islands to guard against possible threats.
In their eyes, Diaoyu Islands or Senkaku is part of Japanese territory and that, to them, has become a widely recognized fact among the Japanese. Guarding against China's naval activities in this maritime area therefore serves Japan's national interest. Following this logic, winning public approval on this issue has been regarded by Kan and Ozawa as an important weapon to gain votes.
Both Kan and Ozawa believe that the acquisition of the Diaoyu Islands and adjacent islets, whose surrounding maritime waters are rich in resources, by a Japan that has insufficient resources, will be of great significance to Japan's maritime and resource strategy.
In their run-up struggle for DPJ leadership, Kan and Ozawa have said they would inherit Hatoyama's unveiled proposal to build the East Asian community. However, Japan's tough stance on the recent collision between its patrol vessels with a Chinese fishing boat in the waters off the Diaoyu Islands has obviously contravened the common consensus reached with China that the East China Sea will be built into a sea of peace and cooperation. Tokyo's stance will only escalate tensions with Beijing over the Diaoyu Islands and will likely foil its efforts to construct the East Asian community, a target that will better serve Japan's long-term national interests.
Japanese politicians should not place personal or partisan interests over the larger interest of peace and stability in East Asia. It is particularly unwise to pursue political capital by taking advantage of territorial disputes with China and fueling national confrontation between the two neighbors.
It is in Japan's national interests if its politicians take an honest and pragmatic approach toward the Diaoyu Islands and conduct active, pragmatic and peaceful consultations with China.
Both China and Japan can share abundant natural resources in the East China Sea, extricate themselves from the long-standing shackles of territorial disputes as soon as possible and convert potential resources in this area into wealth to realize a win-win result.
The author is a researcher with the Institute of Japanese Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Может ли Япония защитить свои острова от Китая?
By Todd Crowell
TOKYO – The USS Hawaii, a nuclear-powered attack submarine, arrived earlier this month at Yokosuka, home port of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, one more asset in America’s naval buildup in Northeast Asia, which can be viewed as a direct result of Chinese assertions of hegemony over the East China and South China Seas.
In July three Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines surfaced more or less simultaneously at Pusan, South Korea, Subic Bay in the Philippines and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The three are converted Trident missile submarines, having been stripped of their intercontinental ballistic missiles and stuffed with Tomahawk cruise missiles - 140 per sub – armed with conventional warheads.
The Hawaii is part of new class of attack submarines that are configured to operate in shallow, near-shore waters. As the submarine’s captain was happy to tell the Pacific Stars and Stripes newspaper on arrival, the sub has the ability to maintain a “persistent presence off shallow waters.”
Why would it be important to operate in shallow, near-shore waters? Take out an atlas and trace the string of islands that stretch for more than a thousand kilometers from the southern tip of Kyushu through Okinawa nearly as far as Taiwan - all are Japanese, although the southern-most is disputed by China.
There is a gap in this island chain between Okinawa and the Japanese island of Miyako known as the Miyako Channel. It is wide enough to provide an avenue of international waters through the island chain, and is the principal gateway through which the Chinese navy can pass through on its way to open sea.
The Miyako Channel is becoming one of the most sensitive maritime flashpoints in the world, along with the Malacca Strait, the Strait of Hormuz and the Taiwan Strait. It may be even more sensitive than the Taiwan Strait, as the U.S. and other navies avoid passing through it unless they are trying to be deliberately provocative.
On the other hand, the Miyako Strait is where the U.S., Chinese and Japanese navies grind together. Last April, a Chinese navy flotilla passed through the channel on the way to open sea. It was shadowed by Japanese destroyers, which in turn were buzzed by Chinese helicopters, prompting Tokyo to make a formal protest about the harassment of its ships.
Japan is awakening to the fact that its extreme southern flank is basically undefended and open to invasion. For years, most of Japan’s ground forces were deployed in the northern island of Hokkaido to guard against a Russian invasion. Gradually, Tokyo has been redeploying its troops to the west and south.
This may accelerate as Beijing is becoming more aggressive in asserting its hegemony over nearby waters, not just traditionally recognized territorial waters but the entire South China, East China and Yellow Seas. The Chinese strongly objected to the presence of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington in the Yellow Sea in joint U.S. and South Korean naval exercises.
Washington and Seoul moved the maneuvers to the Sea of Japan opposite the east coast of South Korea in deference to Beijing, but the ship may enter the Yellow Sea soon for another series of exercises with the South Korean navy.
Currently, China and Japan are embroiled in a growing diplomatic dispute over the southern-most of these islands, which are called the Senkaku by the Japanese and Diaoyu by the Chinese. The two countries dispute ownership. The islands are uninhabited but controlled by the Japanese, whose Coast Guard vessels regularly shoo away intruders.
In a recent incident, the Coast Guard boarded and arrested the crew of one Chinese fishing ship, which it claimed had deliberately rammed their vessels. Tokyo released the crew but still detains the captain. Beijing has protested loudly, postponed meetings aimed at sharing natural gas resources in the East China Sea and cancelled planned diplomatic meetings.
The dispute caught Tokyo at an awkward time, as Japan was in the middle of an internal party election to confirm Prime Minister Naoto Kan in office. It will fall into the lap of newly named Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, who replaced Katsuya Okada after he was elevated to be the Secretary General of the Democratic Party.
Japan recently extended its ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone), whereby aircraft entering must identify themselves, further south almost to Taiwan. The government is considering stationing token forces on Miyako and possibly other islands. “Defending strong points in the Sakishima chain (southern-most islands) is very important,” said Defense Minister Toshima Kitazawa.
In December, the Japanese self defense forces will hold their first ever maneuvers simulating the recapture of remote islands from an occupier. The Japanese navy, in turn, is already well-equipped with amphibious assault ships to bring troops to the battlefield if necessary.
There has even been some discussion of creating a Japanese “Marine Corps," although not as an elite independent service as it is in the U.S. The defense ministry would designate a regiment or even a division for special training in Marine Corps-like activities, such as amphibious assaults.
These developments put the presence of the U.S. Marine Expeditionary Force on Okinawa in a new light. Who is better equipped or trained to recapture isolated islands? Former premier Yukio Hatoyama came to recognize the deterrent value of the U.S. Marines on Okinawa, although too late to save his job.
His successor as prime minister says his government will honor the agreement with Washington to close the Futenma Marine Air station and build a new air base for the Marines at another less crowded location on the island. It is still likely to continue to run into political opposition from the island.
Is the threat of China seizing any of these islands by force realistic? One could equally ask how realistic it was to expect the Russians to invade Hokkaido. Militaries plan for contingencies, and who is to say that in the future some Chinese leaders won't decide that “historical documents” dating back to the Ming Dynasty “prove” that these islands are really Chinese territory and try to occupy them?
Todd Crowell covered Tiananmen as Chief of Correspondents for Asiaweek. He comments on Asian affairs at Asia Cable (www.asiacable.blogspot.com).