The build-up of Chinese military capabilities is a real threat.
- Maehara Seiji, the new Foreign Minister of Japan, speaking in the United States in 2005
In ancient Chinese history, the First Emperor sent his adviser Xu Fu (徐福, Jofuku in Japanese) across the sea to what is now Japan to seek out the elixir of immortality. The account records that he was accompanied by many young men and women. Some Chinese believe that the Japanese are descendants of these early travelers. Does this give China a territorial claim over Japan? Of course not.
- Paul Lin, Taipei Times 19 September 2010
FOR THOSE with the eyes to see, China is offering the world a preview of its behavior when it finally assumes the role of Great Power. The screening started when the Japanese arrested Zhan Qixiong, captain of the Chinese fishing boat Minjinyu 5179, in Japanese waters 12 kilometers northwest of Kubashima. That was near one of the Senkaku islets, which the Chinese decided a few years ago was actually theirs after centuries of ignoring them. He was released today without being formally charged, though he could have been held a few more days before Japanese law required a decision.
One of the Senkaku islets
The Japanese suspected illegal fishing, having caught the Chinese with their pants down, so to speak—their fishing tackle was unfurled—so they hailed the boat to stop for boarding and inspection. The Chinese fishermen usually quit the scene when confronted, but this time someone cued up the theme song to Cops: Captain Zhan zipped up, rammed one of the Coast Guard vessels (the Mizuki), and then hightailed it. During the two-hour chase, he also rammed the other Coast Guard ship.
Try that on a highway after being motioned to pull over by an officer in a patrol car and watch what happens.
What happened here is that the Japanese decided to detain the captain before deciding whether or not to formally charge him. After a few days, they sent the Minjinyu 5179 back to China with the 14 crewmen, none of whom were arrested, but one or more of whom might have been CCP members egging on the skipper. They also found some fish.
The subsequent behavior of the Chinese and Japanese could not present a clearer contrast. The Japanese have been a model of calm discretion, while the Chinese government has responded with volleys of cloddish intimidation and ham-handed irredentism that reverberate with echoes of a less sophisticated age. The bluster puts one in mind of the more restrained North Korean propaganda, with hints of a mustachioed Mitteleuropa paperhanger demanding the return of the Sudetenland. It’s all the more revealing because they’re bullying a year-old Japanese government that long ago declared its intention to develop closer ties with them while tilting away from the United States. Perhaps that aggression is to be expected when one’s military budget has quadrupled over the past decade and one is facing a technically pacifist country with only 10% of the military personnel. The urge arises to start kicking sand in other people’s faces just because one can get away with it.
The recently appointed Japanese foreign minister, Maehara Seiji, is portrayed by some as a “hawk” because he favors amending the Japanese Constitution to permit national self-defense. This hawk is carrying an olive branch in its talons, however. He says the incident will be handled in accordance with the rule of law while emphasizing that “there is no territorial dispute in the region”. At the United Nations this week, he said, “(China) is an important neighbor. We must create a solid, strategic reciprocal relationship.”
While inspecting the damage to one of the Japanese ships last weekend, he added this bit of information:
We have a video of the circumstances of the collision, and it’s obvious at a glance who collided with whom.
Here’s a report from NHK, Japan’s quasi-public television network, using a computer-generated representation rather than the video itself. If you don’t understand Japanese, fast forward to the 1:20 mark; the Japanese ship is shown sailing ahead of the Chinese fishing vessel and to its port side when the Minjinyu 5179 suddenly veers left and smacks into it. (The Japanese Coast Guard is keeping the video under wraps and is not allowing copies to be made.) The announcer says the Chinese ship approached from the rear and turned the rudder sharply to hit the Japanese ship.
The Japanese government was able to hold its ground because it completely understands the motivations for the Chinese behavior, both in general and in this particular instance.
Being neighbors of the Chinese, they’ve understood for centuries that China has never seen itself as one nation among others in a cooperative relationship of mutual benefit. China refers to itself as the “flower in the center of the world”, and with their recent reblossoming they are reasserting the suzerainty they created in the region centuries ago. Not only do they consider the Western Pacific a Chinese sea, they’ve also expanded their reach into the Indian Ocean and are eyeing the other oceans of the world:
Now, one of China’s most prominent policy intellectuals is advocating for the creation of overseas bases. Shen Dingli, a professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, asserts that “it is wrong for us [China] to believe that we have no right to set up bases abroad.” He argues that it is not terrorism or piracy that’s the real threat to China. It’s the ability of other states to block China’s trade routes that poses the greatest threat. …As China emerges as a major global power, it will expand its military footprint across the globe, much like that other great power, the US, whose bases surround China. The rapid expansion of China’s naval capabilities and broader military profile is a classic manifestation of its great power status. China’s new naval strategy of “far sea defense” is aimed at giving Beijing the ability to project its power in key oceanic areas, including and most significantly the Indian Ocean.
The Japanese also know that the Chinese now have access to a port on the Sea of Japan, thanks to an arrangement with their closest ally—North Korea:
China has gained direct access to the Sea of Japan for the first time in 100 years through a North Korean port, leaving the other two regional players, Japan and South Korea, deeply concerned about the communist state’s ambitions.
China made an agreement to lease a pier at North Korea’s Rajin Port for 10 years…The North Korean port city is considered a hub that will help forays into the Pacific region from China’s north-east.
Mikyoung Kim, a North Korea expert at the Hiroshima Peace Institute in Japan, said… “It is possible that China’s lease of the North Korean territory [the port] can be extended over the 10 years into a long-term deal. That can complicate the South’s effort for reunification. The South cannot just sit and watch”…She said she suspects China has a long-term goal. “China has been pursuing the North-east Project, a territorially ambitious project. In case of contingency in North Korea through an upheaval there, China may claim the leased territory as its own.”
Despite Chinese security analysts’ downplaying the matter, some outside analysts view the deal as ultimately part of China’s rising world power ambition, a view China strongly denies.
“Although China is a big country, many of its key areas are landlocked. Other powerful countries in the world don’t have the difficulty of entering the sea China faces,” said Global Times newspaper (of China). “The US directly faces two oceans in its east and west. Russia has a big part of its territory that is coastal. Japan is an island country by itself. India is a peninsula,” it said.
China’s oceanic coastline is approximately 18,000 km long (11,185 miles), extending from the Bohai Gulf to the South China Sea. (The former freezes in the winter.)
The Japanese know better than anyone else that the Chinese conducted its most aggressive show of naval strength ever in the Western Pacific earlier this year. They sent warships twice through the waters of Okinawa Prefecture in an attempt to intimidate Japan while the flotilla headed south to confront Vietnamese dealing with other Chinese fishing vessels in the Spratly Islands:
The news from Tokyo on 10 April 2010 that the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force had monitored ten Chinese warships passing 140km south of Okinawa through the Miyako Strait marked a new stage in China’s naval development. The deployment was of unprecedented size and scope for the Chinese navy, and was the second such operation mounted by China in rapid succession: in March, a smaller flotilla had been deployed on exercises. The two sets of exercises, along with Chinese counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, demonstrate the flexibility of China’s naval forces and their greater prominence in Beijing’s strategic calculations…
The ships conducted numerous live-fire exercises, as well as confrontation drills with elements of the South Sea Fleet. The PLA report said the fleet visited Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands, as well as conducting further exercises near the Malacca Strait between Malaysia and Indonesia. The deployment and exercises were a clear message of the willingness of the PLA Navy to assert Chinese power in the region.
The Chinese may be testing the resolve of the new Japanese government, particularly because the latter is having difficulties with the Americans over their military presence. The Japanese government also remembers how the Chinese tested the new Bush administration in 2001:
Analysts from Jane’s Defense say that two Chinese F8 fighter planes “hemmed in” the larger, slower EP-3 in an attempt to make it change course, and thereby caused the collision; one source reports that one of the Chinese fighters was actually flying directly underneath the EP-3….The aggressive and dangerous behavior of the Chinese pilots is later confirmed by the account of the collision by the pilot of the EP-3, Lieutenant Shane Osborn, who says, “He was harassing us.…The third time he hit us, is that an accident? I don’t know. Do I think he meant to hit us? No. I don’t think he meant to have his plane cut in two and go under the ocean. But his actions were definitely threatening my crew in a very serious manner and we all saw what happened.”
The Japanese are also aware the Chinese themselves have no problem arresting fishermen they think are infringing on their territory. The Chinese fisheries department seized nine Vietnamese fishermen on 22 March this year near the Paracels:
The Vietnamese Coast Guard warned and chased away at least 130 Chinese fishing boats that were found illegally fishing in Vietnamese waters off the central coast on January 29.
The naval unit based in Da Nang confirmed the news last Friday, adding that the fishing boats had been organized in groups.
Coast Guard vessels first apprehended 100 boats just 45 nautical miles off Thua Thien Hue.
Four days later they found the other 30 deep in Vietnamese waters off Da Nang and Thua Thien Hue.
Earlier last year China seized 17 Vietnamese fishing boats and arrested 210 fishermen for straying into its waters before later releasing all the men and 13 boats.
It has not escaped Japanese attention that Chinese aggression is limited to those countries it considers unlikely to resort to military retaliation. They are more restrained when dealing with other nation-state thuggery. For example, when the Russian Navy fired on and sank the Chinese cargo ship New Star in February this year, killing eight Chinese sailors, the Chinese response was rather subdued in comparison to the behavior after the arrest of the fishing boat captain in the Senkakus:
Zhang Xiyun, director-general for the Foreign Ministry’s Department of European-Central Asian Affairs, said, “The attitude of the Russian foreign ministry is hard to understand and unacceptable.”
Vice Foreign Minister Li Hui told Russia’s ambassador: “The Chinese side expresses shock and deep concern over this incident, We call on the Russian side to begin with a humanitarian spirit… and continue to make all efforts to find the missing personnel.”
The Chinese summoned the Russian ambassador to complain once about eight Chinese deaths. They’ve already summoned the Japanese ambassador six times over the arrest of one man, once in the middle of the night on the weekend. But then mobsters are more likely to push around law-abiding citizens; they tend to pick their fights with rival hoodlums more carefully.
Most important of all, the Japanese government understands that the Senkakus have been internationally recognized as Japanese territory for more than a century—including by the Chinese themselves.
The Senkakus are a group of eight uninhabited islets with an aggregate area of 1,700 acres, slightly more than twice the size of New York City’s Central Park. They are 106 miles north of Ishigaki, Japan (and are part of its municipal district); 116 miles northeast of Keelung, Taiwan; and 255 miles west of Okinawa Island.
The red dots on the top row l-r are Shanghai and Kagoshima City. On the second row they are Taipei, Ishigaki, and Naha. The Senkakus are in the box.
The first recorded mention of the islets was in 1534 in Chen Kan’s Records of the Imperial Mission to Ryukyu. Chen, an envoy of the Ming Dynasty emperor to the Ryukyus, described his trip from China to Naha, as well as the customs of the native Okinawans. In his and several other accounts over the next two centuries, the islets were mentioned merely as geographic landmarks. The Chinese never indicated they considered them their territory, or anything more than specks in the ocean.
The first Japanese mention is in the Chuzan Seikan (Mirror of Chuzan), i.e., records of the Ryukyu Dynasty, which dates from 1650. As in the Chinese records, there is no indication they were considered anyone’s territory.
Fukuoka native Koga Tatsuhiro was making a living in Naha, Okinawa, catching and exporting finfish and shellfish when he discovered in 1884 that the islets were the habitat of the rare short-tailed albatross. He started collecting albatross feathers for sale in addition conducting to his fishing business. Ten years later, he applied to the government of Okinawa Prefecture to lease the islands. They turned him down because they weren’t sure who the islands belonged to. Koga then applied to the interior and agriculture ministries in Tokyo, and they turned him down for the same reason.
That did bring the islets to the attention of the Japanese government, however, and Koga’s persistence paid off. The Japanese claimed the islands under the legal principle of terra nullius—any nation can claim as its own, territory that is unclaimed by any other nation—and it became part of Japan. The Senkakus were uninhabited and unclaimed—indeed, they had never been administered at any time by the Chinese government, and there is no record of any Chinese ever living or working there.
The Chinese later charged the Japanese swiped the islets at the same time they wound up with the booty of Taiwan and the Penghu Islands at the end of the 1894-1895 Sino-Japanese War.
The Japanese Communist Party, nationalist scalawags that they are, addresses those claims on their website:
The Senkaku Islands question has nothing to do with the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95. The Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty to conclude the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 decided to cede Taiwan and the Penghu Islands to Japan. This was Japan’s territorial expansion, which can never be justified. But every historical document tells us that the Senkaku Islands question was dealt with separately from the Taiwan and Penghu Islands question. In the negotiations on the Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty, the question of title to the Senkaku Islands was not taken up.
The JCP, by the way, also complained that the U.S. military used the islets for target practice.
In addition to albatross feathers, the islets for a time became a center for the production of katsuobushi, or dried bonito flakes, which are often used in Japanese cuisine. Koga finally relinquished the business in 1940, however, when more inexpensive sources were found. Other than that, the islets were ignored. The next noteworthy mention of them comes in 1920. That year, the Japanese rescued 31 Chinese fishermen who were shipwrecked on one of the smaller islets. The Chinese consul in Nagasaki wrote a letter of gratitude to the Japanese thanking them for their help. In the body of the letter, he referred to them by the Japanese term Senkaku islets (尖閣列島) instead of the Chinese name, Daiyutai (釣魚島). In other words, the Chinese considered them Japanese territory in 1920.
You can see for yourself. That document still exists, and here is a reproduction. The name is in the fourth column from the right:
The government of China claimed other islands in the South China Sea in 1932 and 1935, some of which were under the control of the French and the Japanese. The People’s Republic claimed them again in 1949. Despite their insistence that other islands in Japanese possession were theirs in 1935, the Chinese said nothing about the Senkakus.
There matters stood until the end of the Second World War in the Pacific. Under the Treaty of Peace with Japan (AKA The San Francisco Treaty), which went into force on 28 April 1952, the Japanese disposed of all the territory they conquered over the years to create their empire. Some of that territory was Chinese:
Article 2 (b)
Japan renounces all right, title and claim to Formosa and the Pescadores.
Article 2 (f)
Japan renounces all right, title and claim to the Spratly Islands and to the Paracel Islands.
The treaty gave the United States the right to continue to administer part of Japan after the Allied occupation ended:
Japan will concur in any proposal of the United States to the United Nations to place under its trusteeship system, with the United States as the sole administering authority, Nansei Shoto south of 29 deg. north latitude (including the Ryukyu Islands and the Daito Islands), Nanpo Shoto south of Sofu Gan (including the Bonin Islands, Rosario Island and the Volcano Islands) and Parece Vela and Marcus Island. Pending the making of such a proposal and affirmative action thereon, the United States will have the right to exercise all and any powers of administration, legislation and jurisdiction over the territory and inhabitants of these islands, including their territorial waters.
The Senkakus were considered part of the Nansei Shoto, as a U.S. State Department official later explicitly stated:
“The term “Nansei Shoto” was understood to mean all islands [south of 29 degrees north latitude] under Japanese administration at the end of the war … The term, as used in the treaty, was intended to include the Senkaku Islands.” (Suganuma Unryu, Sovereign Rights and Territorial Space in Sino-Japanese Relations, p. 134)
In fact, though several island groups are mentioned, most of the territory here was—and still is—a single administrative unit: Okinawa Prefecture (state/province). In short, everything cited in Article 3 of the treaty is just as much Japan as is The Ginza in Tokyo. (The Nanpo Shoto lie to the east and are part of the Tokyo Metro District.) Uninhabited islands are part of the territory of most maritime nations; not all of the 5,000 islands that are part of China are inhabited either.
The Americans administered the rest of Okinawa until they returned the prefecture to Japanese control under the 17 June 1971 Agreement between Japan and the United States of America Concerning the Ryukyu Islands and the Daito Islands:
1. With respect to the Ryukyu Islands and the Daito Islands, as defined in paragraph 2 below, the United States of America relinquishes in favor of Japan all rights and interests under Article 3 of the Treaty of Peace with Japan signed at the city of San Francisco on September 8, 1951, effective as of the date of entry into force of this Agreement. Japan, as of such date, assumes full responsibility and authority for the exercise of all and any powers of administration, legislation and jurisdiction over the territory and inhabitants of the said islands.
2. For the purpose of this Agreement, the term “the Ryukyu Islands and the Daito Islands” means all the territories and their territorial waters with respect to which the right to exercise all and any powers of administration, legislation and jurisdiction was accorded to the United States of America under Article 3 of the Treaty of Peace with Japan other than those with respect to which such right has already been returned to Japan in accordance with the Agreement concerning the Amami Islands and the Agreement concerning Nanpo Shoto and Other Islands signed between Japan and the United States of America, respectively on December 24, 1953 and April 5, 1968.
Neither Taiwan nor the People’s Republic of China were signatories to the San Francisco Treaty, but neither objected to the inclusion of the Senkakus at the time. That’s because they considered them to be part of Japan. To be specific:
8 January 1953: Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily) published an article titled “The Ryukyu Islanders’ Struggle against American Occupation” (i.e., Okinawa). The article mentioned the Senkakus, used that name, and stated they were part of the Ryukyus. Here’s a post from Michael Turton’s fine blog, The View from Taiwan, with more more detail on the article.
November 1958: A Beijing company published a map of the world showing the Senkakus as Japanese territory and using the Japanese name.
October 1965: The Research Institute for Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense published a series of world maps. It showed the islets as part of Japanese territory and used the Japanese name Senkakus. Here is a color reproduction of the map itself on a Taiwanese website. The poster worries about how the map would affect the Taiwanese claim. Scroll down to see the magical mystery change on the map for the 1972 edition.
6 October 1968: The Taiwanese newspaper Lianhebao (United Daily News) published an article explaining that Taiwanese fishermen were prohibited from fishing in the Senkakus. They used the Japanese name.
12 October – 29 November 1968: Maritime specialists from Taiwan and South Korea conducted sea floor surveys of the East China Sea with the cooperation of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE), the regional arm of the United Nations Secretariat for the Asian and Pacific region. The report stated there was a possibility of large quantities of oil and natural gas under the seabed. It was later confirmed that there are at least 92 million bbl of oil available, with estimates of up to 100 billion bbl of oil, roughly equivalent to the 112.4 billion bbl of Iraq.
May 1969: The government of Taiwan provided oil exploration rights to Gulf, planted the Taiwanese flag on the Senkakus, and notified the world’s wire services of its action.
January 1970: The Taiwan government published a geography textbook for junior high school students that called the islands the Senkakus and treated them as Japanese territory. The following is a copy of the key part of the map. (Refer to the respective Chinese characters for the name of the islets above):
September 1970: The Okinawan police sent a ship to the Senkakus, removed the Taiwanese flag, and gave it to the Americans.
11 June 1971: The Taiwanese government claimed the islands as their own territory for the first time. Less than one week later:
17 June 1971: The treaty returning Okinawa to Japan from American control was signed.
30 December 1971: The People’s Republic of China claimed the islands as their own territory for the first time.
In 1992, China adopted legislation that authorized the use of force to enforce Chinese claims to the islets.
The Chinese and Taiwanese change of mind was followed by a few decades of posturing by the Chinese, low-profiling it by the Japanese, and occasional forays by small boatloads of buckos from China, Taiwan and Japan planting flags on the islets. In 1996, a group Japanese put up an aluminum lighthouse. The Chinese excitables stepped up their activity in 2004, which prompted Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to make a clear statement of American policy about the islands. Here’s how the Asahi Shimbun described it on 2 February 2004:
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage made the following comments at a news conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo Feb. 2 with reference to the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty: “That treaty would require any attack on Japan, or the administrative territories under Japanese control, to be seen as an attack on the United States.”
The statement simply reiterated the contents of Article 5 of the treaty and is nothing new. However, an expert on East Asian affairs at the U.S. State Department noted that Armitage used the phrase administrative territories under Japanese control instead of simply saying Japan or Japanese territory and pointed out that it connotes the Senkaku islands (Chinese name Diaoyu islands) whose ownership is disputed between Japan and China.
The State Department official added that Armitage’s statement amends the ambiguous stance of a past U.S. administration over the issue, meaning the neutral position of the Clinton administration, which implied that the United States is not necessarily obliged under the bilateral security treaty to oversee the defense of the Senkaku islands.
One month after Mr. Armitage spoke in Tokyo, the BBC ran an article on Chinese swashbuckling on the Senkakus. They noted:
China and Taiwan both laid claim to the Senkaku Islands in the 1970s after oil deposits were found nearby.
They were declared Japanese territory in 1895 and fall under the jurisdiction of Japan’s southern Okinawa prefecture.
The responses this month: A comparison
From Shikata Noriyuki, a spokesman for the Japanese prime minister’s office:
Regarding individual issues, what is needed is to respond calmly without becoming emotional.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku Yoshito called for calm and warned about extreme nationalism on both sides. Japan is the country least affected by nationalism in Northeast Asia; his inclusion of Japan in the warning of about extreme nationalism is to prevent any incidents the Chinese can use for a pretext.
The political opposition is firm, sometimes critical of the government, but always responsible. LDP Secretary-General Ishihara Nobuteru thinks the government’s response is insufficient, but then offers the Japanese political consensus: “Since there is no territorial problem, let the courts handle it quietly.” Former Defense Minister Koike Yuriko thinks the Chinese behavior highlights the worst aspect of the security treaty with the U.S.: It makes other countries think the Japanese can be easily steamrolled. The Japanese left was hysterical with their fantasies of an Abe Shinzo foreign policy when he was prime minister, but he too was subdued. He merely pointed out that Japan has to maintain its resolve because the next Chinese step “can only be economic sanctions”.
All of the above statements are representative of the tone in the media, from what I’ve seen.
Your Party Secretary-General Eda Kenji might well have encapsulated the sentiments of the general public in a blog post:
There’s no need to respond to every one of the childish retaliatory measures of the Chinese. That’s the sort of nation China is. They don’t realize just how much they lower their standing in the international community, and besides, they’re still just a developing country.
That last one cuts deeper in Japanese than it does in English.
Saber-rattling? The Defense Ministry announced that it’s mulling an increase in the size of the self-defense forces by 13,000 troops from 155,000 to 168,000, the first rise since 1972. They cite conditions in East Asia and the terrorist threat as their reason.
The United States
We’ve seen that six years ago, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage specifically used language to include the Senkakus as Japanese territory the Americans would defend. In Tokyo recently, he said he thinks China is taking advantage of a “chill” in Japan-U.S. relations, and that Beijing is “testing what they can get away with.”
He also said he thought the incident and the Chinese reaction should be a “warning” to other Asian countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei about Chinese behavior in territorial disputes.
While the Bush administration stood up for the Japanese through Mr. Armitage, the Obama administration, in keeping with their attitude toward allies, sat right back down.
Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg now says the American position is “as it was before”, and that they won’t support either side. When “before” was, he didn’t say.
Mr. Steinberg, by the way, coined the phrase “strategic reassurance” to describe U.S.-China relations. That means the United States should reassure China that they will welcome China’s new status, and China should reassure the US and its Asian neighbors that it would not conflict with their interests.
So much for Steinbergian strategic reassurance.
The American Defense Department is more sanguine, however. Though few noticed, the Sasebo-based minesweeper Defender called on the Port of Hirara in Miyakojima, Okinawa, this week. It is only the third time since 1972 an American naval vessel called on a civilian port on a friendly visit and the first ever for Hirara. The port is in the southern part of the Ryukyus 400 miles from Taipei and 110 miles from Naha. Play around with the map at this site to get an idea of the location. The white specks to the northeast of Taiwan are the Senkakus.
The Governor of Okinawa was unhappy about the visit because the American navy is supposed to enter civilian ports only in case of an emergency. About 40 people showed up to demonstrate, mostly from labor unions.
Meanwhile, at a Pentagon news conference, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said:
“Obviously we’re very, very strongly in support of … our ally in that region, Japan.”
Added Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “We would fulfill our alliance responsibilities.”
China, in word and deed
Since the Japanese seized Capt. Zhan, here’s what the Chinese have done:
- Summoned Japanese Ambassador Niwa Uichiro six times to complain, once in the middle of the night
- Ended all contact with the Japanese government at the ministerial level and above. There will not be a summit at the UN between Prime Minister Kan Naoto and Premier Wen Jibao.
- Sent a Ministry of Agriculture “fishing observation vessel” to the area near the Senkakus. These ships are often armed and have been active in the South China Sea to back up Chinese claims in that area.
- Suspended negotiations on joint development of the gas fields in the East China Sea
- Suspended discussions for increasing air travel between the two countries
- Suspended discussions about coal shipments from China to Japan
- Suspended corporate exchanges
Chinese customs officials stopped shipments of rare earth elements to Japan by preventing them from being loaded aboard ships at Chinese ports, according to three industry sources. Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Chen Rongkai denied it, but the sources (one of whom was Australian) said Chinese customs notified companies they couldn’t ship rare earth oxides, salts, or pure rare earth metals. Ordinarily, the Japanese could file a complaint with the World Trade Organization, but that will be difficult because the Chinese handled the matter administratively rather than through direct government order.
The Chinese might find this step to be counterproductive. The American House of Representatives is discussing this week legislation to subsidize the reopening of rare earth mines in the U.S.
- Fined Toyota Motor Corp.’s finance unit for bribing car dealers, a charge Toyota denies
- Sent equipment to the Chunxiao gas field (Shirakaba in Japanese), according to Japanese sources, apparently to begin drilling. Said Foreign Minister Maehara: “If it has been confirmed with proof, we will take the measures that should be taken.” That would include taking the case to the international maritime court.
- Postponed the planned five-day trip of Li Jianguo, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, to Japan at the invitation of the Japanese lower house of the Diet.
- Cancelled permission for 1,000 members of a Japanese youth exchange group to visit the Shanghai World’s Fair
Cutting off their nose to spite their face #1
Cutting off their nose to spite their face #2
Words: The government
State Councilor Dai Bingguo summoned Niwa Uichiro at midnight on a Sunday to tell Japan to make a “wise political resolution” by releasing the fishing boat and its crew detained in disputed waters six days ago, and “expressed the Chinese government’s grave concerns”.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu
This incident was incited by Japan. Now they add error to error and escalate the problem.
China is firmly opposed to any kind of investigation by the Japanese side on the illegally detained Chinese trawler…unconditional and immediate release of the detained Chinese citizens was the only way to settle the dispute. Japan will reap as it has sown, if it continues to act recklessly.
The Diaoyu islands are China’s inseparable territory and the Japanese side applying domestic law to Chinese fishing boats operating in this area is absurd, illegal and invalid, and China will never accept that.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu
When the Japanese extended the detention of the ship captain, Ma said it was “illegal and invalid.”
We demand the immediate and unconditional release of the Chinese captain. If Japan acts willfully, making mistake after mistake, China will take strong countermeasures, and all the consequences will be borne by the Japanese side.
Premier Wen Jibao
Threatened Japan by saying China will take ”further actions” if Japan does not immediately release the ship captain.
During a 2007 visit to Japan, Mr. Wen pledged to make the East China Sea a “sea of peace, cooperation and friendship.” A few months later, the Japanese Coast Guard and the Chinese State Oceanic Administration set up a hotline.
Gao Hong, deputy director at the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences:
The inexperienced government of the Democratic Party of Japan will gradually learn that it is important to maintain a stable and healthy relationship with China.
Zhou Yongsheng, a professor of Japanese studies at China Foreign Affairs University:
(China has) more cards in hand than the Japanese, as their economy is largely dependent on China. China should take strong countermeasures.
Jin Yongming, legal scholar with the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences and Chinese Maritime Development Research Center, in the 10 September issue of the China Daily:
“Japan infringed upon China’s sovereignty and territory integrity when Japanese patrol ships chased the Chinese fishing trawler and boarded it forcibly. But the Japanese Coast Guard did not stop at that. It even applied Japanese law in the waters off the Diaoyu Islands, which since ancient times have been Chinese territory. Japan had no right to press charges against the Chinese fishermen according to its domestic laws,” said Jin.
“To strengthen its presence around the Diaoyu Islands, the Japanese Coast Guard has been sending patrol ships for some time now and has repeatedly chased Chinese fishing and survey vessels. But such action cannot alter the fact that Diaoyu Islands belong to China. And history vouches for that.”
He also demanded that Japan should apologize and offer the fishermen adequate compensation.
Li Nan, the China Federation of Defending the Diaoyu Islands
If the Chinese government continues to simply declare the Diaoyu Islands are Chinese territory while avoiding substantive action then I feel the islands are drifting further and further away from us. China should send patrol ships from the PLA Navy, like Japan, and establish (the) Diaoyu Islands as a shooting range.
The Global Times, an official Chinese newspaper, published a front page article on “severe countermeasures” that could be taken against Japan, including extracting “economic damage”.
It included this passage:
”We should send regular battle-capable fisheries vessels to the Diaoyu area to protect navigation,” said General Peng Guangqian, an analyst at the Chinese Academy of Military Science.
Does not the concept of “battle capable fishery vessels” speak for itself?
Global Times editorial: Finding the Achilles Heel of Japan
Bilateral relations between the two countries have plunged recently due to Japan’s diplomatic recklessness…China’s Japan policy has been based on friendly ties stressing warm public communication since the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two in 1972. But the public emotions of Japanese society toward China have altered significantly recently. It seems that conflicts originating from Japan are continually escalating….It should be apparent by now that China will be forced to endure long-term conflicts with Japan, and emphasizing only friendly relations is not prudent.
China needs to be certain of Japan’s soft spots for clearly targeted reactions. The pain has to be piercing. Japanese politicians need to understand the consequences – votes will be lost, and Japanese companies have to be aware of the loss of business involved. Japanese citizens will feel the burden due to the downturn in the economy. China’s domestic law, business regulations and consumers can all be maneuvered.
There is a lingering question in China: Why do hawkish Japanese politicians who are obviously against China emerge one after another without China provoking Japan?
Suspension of the East China Sea gas field talks, scheduled for mid-September, is the first move of China’s counter strike. Given the decades of relationship building after WWII, China will probably not resort to force over this incident. But, if the protests from the Chinese government and public don’t bring the Japanese back from the brink of a relations breakdown, Beijing has to consider stronger retaliatory measures.
English-language print media
Apart from items that could be found on any police blotter, the English-language news media can no longer be counted on to provide correct information on anything. It’s a bit like shooting dead fish in a barrel, but here are a few examples of their coverage.
The Japanese have been behaving decorously, so they offer no photo opportunities. The Chinese have been the ones to foam at the mind, so photos the media chooses to run seem designed to create associations with the Second World War, such as this one from AP:
News agencies such as Reuters and outlets such as the New York Times like to include references to “lingering resentments” over the war. Everyone in this part of the world, however, understands that Chinese popular opinion toward the Japanese is cynically manipulated like a spigot by the government to deflect dissatisfaction with the regime. Notice how often the phrase “(the Chinese government) allowed some demonstrations” is used.
The Epoch Times has a worthwhile piece here, pointing out that the demonstrations are stage-managed. The Japanese understand this, and usually wait until the Chinese government calls them off when they begin to worry popular discontent will be transferred to them.
Globe and Mail, Canada
Beijing asserts new dominance over waning Tokyo in diplomatic row
That guy in jail—where was he from again?
The dispute over the island chain, which is also claimed by Taiwan, dates to the end of the Second World War.
Possibility #1: The author was too lazy to look it up.
Possibility #2: He believed his Chinese source and was too lazy to confirm it.
The Age, Australia:
Japanese commentators and politicians are responding in kind to China’s increased maritime assertiveness, after China’s rolling conflicts with the United States and south-east Asian nations over control of the South China and Yellow seas. Japan’s Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, said the islands were an ”integral part of Japanese territory”.
Responding in kind?
American screenwriter, novelist, and blogger Roger L. Simon has observed that journalist bloggers at mainstream publications sound so many false notes they’re like white boys trying to sing the blues. Exhibit A is this post at the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof.
Look out—his (or the paper’s) framing of the narrative starts with the headline:
Look Out for the Diaoyu Islands
The Japanese detained the Chinese captain for questioning and the two countries have been exchanging indignant protests.
Readers are hereby invited to send in any examples of indignant protests by anyone in an official capacity in Japan. Good luck finding one.
The other problem is that, technically, the U.S. would be obliged to bail Japan out if there were a fight over the Senkakus. The U.S. doesn’t take a position on who owns the islands, but the Japan-U.S. security treaty specifies that the U.S. will help defend areas that Japan administers. And in 1972, when the U.S. handed Okinawa back to Japan, it agreed that Japan should administer the Senkakus. So we’re in the absurd position of being committed to help Japan fight a war over islands, even though we don’t agree that they are necessarily Japanese.
As you pick out the obvious mistakes in that passage, realize that you already know more about the issue than Kristof, who has two Pulitzer Prizes and has been called “the moral conscience of our generation of journalists…the Indiana Jones of our generation of journalists.”
In reality, of course, there is zero chance that the U.S. will honor its treaty obligation over a few barren rocks. We’re not going to risk a nuclear confrontation with China over some islands that may well be China’s. But if we don’t help, our security relationship with Japan will be stretched to the breaking point.
If the U.S. doesn’t help in the case of a Chinese attack, its security relationship with Japan will cease to exist.
Apart from being the only person to suggest a defense would necessarily be nuclear, Kristof seems to have missed the statements by both Mr. Armitage and Mr. Gates.
Then again, he is talking about the Obama administration.
He also feels his way through the legal issues:
So which country has a better claim to the islands? My feeling is that it’s China, although the answer isn’t clearcut.
Chinese navigational records show the islands as Chinese for many centuries, and a 1783 Japanese map shows them as Chinese as well.
Incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial, as we’ve seen.
Kristof’s obviously been talking to Chinese sources without confirming what he heard from Japanese sources. Here’s the 1783 map. The Chinese contend the Senkakus are the same color on the map as the Chinese mainland (red). They are. (They begin at the third island at the vertical line.) But Taiwan is a different color (yellow). The first two islands on the vertical line are also red, but they were at that time (and are today) Taiwanese territory. In any event, the map was rendered by Hayashi Shihei, a retainer of the Date clan in the Sendai domain in the far northeast corner of Japan. He had no relationship with the Ryukyus–which at that time was an independent country–nor did he have the authority to set anyone’s national boundaries.
Note also that because of the different colors used for Taiwan and the Chinese mainland, a Chinese who accepts this map as proof that the Senkakus belong to China must also implicitly accept that Taiwan is independent from China.
Japan purported to “discover” the islands only in 1884 and annexed them only in 1895 when it also grabbed Taiwan.
who whose hired researchers didn’t spend 15 minutes on the web looking anything up.
(You can also make a case that they are terra nullis [sic], belonging to no nation.)
No, you can’t, because that’s the basis by which Japan claimed them. That claim has been recognized by the rest of the world outside of the New York Times headquarters building for the past 115 years—including China for 76 of those years.
As Chinese nationalism grows, as China’s navy and ability to project power in the ocean gains, we could see some military jostling over the islands. You read it here first.
He also seems to have missed the Global Times editorial that says China will take no military action.
Is his degree of self-importance in inverse proportion to the amount of time he spent on research?
What we are witnessing is how a nation with arrested political development and without a sense of morality, with neither real friends nor real ideals–only size, money, and the desire to recreate the world as it existed two millenia ago–tries to seize the territory of another nation in the modern age and create a contemporary suzerainty. The incident seems to have at last focused the attention of people outside of East Asia on Chinese behavior, apart from those who populate the offices of a dying media culture and the fashionable salons of the elite.
Paul Lin of the Taipei Times wrote:
Japan’s response — releasing 14 crew members while keeping the captain detained — is basically designed to be reasonable without being a capitulation of Japan’s authority. In the long term, however, China’s biggest foe remains the US — still the most prominent democracy. Beijing will try to appeal to the common writing system and heritage of China and Japan to dissolve the US-Japan security treaty, so that it can gain control of the island chain. The US, Japan and Taiwan have to keep a watchful eye out for this, and must not show any sign of weakness lest China exploit a chink in the armor.
When he says island chain, it’s possible he is also referring to Okinawa itself, several decades down the road. The Ryukyu kingdom once paid tribute to the Qing Dynasty, and the Chinese never forget.
After the debacle with the United States over the Futenma marine base and this incident with China, Japan’s Democratic Party might yet learn something about the realities of governing. It is unlikely there will be more talk any time soon from the party about an “equilateral triangle” among Japan, China and the United States, much less any of the silliness about yuai and an East Asian entity.
They’re about to get another lesson when Wallace Gregson, the American Assistant Secretary of Defense, Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, shows up in Tokyo next week to ask the Japanese to increase their financial contribution for American bases and personnel in Japan. Several US sources have confirmed he will use as justification Chinese activity in the East China Sea and the Senkakus dustup.
The current agreement for payment expires next March, and the DPJ has long called for Japan’s financial contribution to be reduced.
If we’re lucky, perhaps the DPJ will also realize they might have brought it on themselves with their handling of the Futenma base issue, former party leader Ozawa Ichiro’s annual jaunts to fawn to the Chinese, and breaching the standard domestic protocol and forcing the Tenno (Emperor) to meet with a Chinese political leader last winter.
The authorities could legally have kept the Chinese sea captain in detention for a few more days, so his early release might open the government to criticism for weakness–particularly as the Chinese have been stepping up the economic pressure. One of the Chinese commentators said the Japanese government might have to pay for their acts with votes. He might be right, but perhaps not in ways he anticipated. Then again, what would mainland Chinese know about democracy?
Japan released Zhan Qixiong today, but the incident will likely have repercussions that last for quite a while.
* A Japanese government source who saw the videos of the incident said it would be difficult to prove the malicious intent of the captain at a public trial because the effect of the sea currents couldn’t be completely ruled out.
* Here’s a fascinating and informative paper about how the Chinese are becoming a global fishing power. The author also says:
(C)onsistent with the Chinese tendency toward close integration of civil and military institutions, China’s large fishing fleet is already integrated into a maritime militia that could render crucial support in a hypothetical military campaign, whether ferrying troops across the Taiwan Strait or laying mines in distant locations. The sheer number of fishing vessels that could be involved would present a severe challenge to any adversary attempting to counter this strategy.
* During his 16th century visit to the Ryukyus, Chen Kan wrote about the natives’ fondness for a beverage that can only be awamori, the Okinawan version of shochu.
* Japan has its useful idiots, too.
Even though Suganuma Unryu quoted an American official as stating that the Senkakus were included in the territory Japan was to keep in the peace treaty, he still argues that the islets are Chinese. He’s now at Oberlin University, and here’s the About page on his blog. He used to be a senior research fellow at the Institute of Moralogy.
Go ahead, read that website. I dare you.
A website called The China Desk likes a paper that historian Inoue Kiyoshi wrote on the issue in 1972 so much, they posted it:
(I)n collusion with U.S. imperialists, reactionary rulers and militarist forces within Japan are clamoring that the Senkaku Islands are Japanese territory, attempting to drag the Japanese people into a militarist, anti-China whirlwind. This whirlwind is certain to become fiercer after US armed forces return the so-called “administrative right over Okinawa” to Japan on May 15 of this year. We who are striving for the independence of the Japanese nation, for friendship between Japan and China, and for peace in Asia, must smash this conspiracy by U.S. and Japanese reactionaries. As a weapon in this struggle, I am providing a brief account of the history of the so-called Senkaku Islands.
* It’s curious that Japan’s Social Democrats are keeping a low profile. I haven’t seen any of their comments quoted in the media, and they hadn’t written anything for their website the last time I looked. Then again, this isn’t the ideal time to promote their view that Japan can trust its security to “the peace-loving peoples of the world”, as stated in the preamble to the Japanese Constitution.
Thanks to Bender for the Kristof link.