Japan from the inside out

On the offensive: Continuing adventures in East Asian hegemonism

Posted by ampontan on Friday, July 27, 2012

THE state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua has observer status at the twice-daily news conferences conducted by Japan’s chief cabinet secretary. They seldom ask questions, but the Xinhua reporter asked questions today — seven of them in rapid succession.

They were in reference to Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko’s statement that he would consider dispatching Self-Defense Forces to the Senkaku Islets.

The reporter asked:

* “In your response to the Senkakus, are you considering diplomatic efforts to avoid military disputes?

* “Some people say that the activities of a few local governments and politicians in Japan are having a negative impact on Japan-Chinese relations. (What do you think?)

Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura Osamu replied:

“There is no doubt that historically and under international law, the Senkaku Islets have always been an integral part of Japan (固有の領土).”

That expression is not easy to translate directly into English; in addition to “an integral part of”, other possibilities are “is rightfully a part of” or “has always been a part of.”

The Xinhua reporter immediately followed that up with: “What is your definition of “an integral part”?”

Meanwhile, down in the South China Sea, the Chinese government created a new city by fiat with the name of Sansha on Yongxing island, which is 350 kilometers from Hainan Island. Sansha translates as “three sandbanks”, so it is unlikely that urban sprawl is a pressing issue for the city fathers.

The island is half the size of New York’s Central Park and has a population of 1,100 who get their fresh water delivered by freighter from China. It’s a 13-hour trip.

It seems to be one of the designated specks on this map:

You might not have known about it, but the Chinese people certainly did:

Official broadcaster China Central Television aired Tuesday morning’s formal establishment ceremony live from Sansha, with speeches from the new mayor and other officials.

Xinhua was Johnny-on-the-spot here too:

The official Xinhua News Agency reported earlier that Sansha’s jurisdiction covers just 13 square kilometers of land, including other islands and atolls in the South China Sea around Yongxing, but 2 million square kilometers of surrounding waters.

Part of the territory that China claims is another submerged reef, which is not allowed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“The Cabinet approved Sansha last month to “consolidate administration” over the Paracel and Spratly island chains and the Macclesfield Bank, a large, completely submerged atoll that boasts rich fishing grounds that is also claimed by Taiwan and the Philippines.”

This report says the city has 45 deputies in a people’s municipal congress, all for a city of 1,100. Now that’s representation. The delegates account for slightly more than 4% of the population. If the same proportion were applied to the national population, China would have 53.3 million people sitting in municipal congresses. City Council meetings would become the new spectator sport.

Speaking of city fathers, the reports say the new mayor was “elected”. Perhaps Sansha is also a laboratory for budding Chinese democracy.

But simple fisherfolk aren’t the only folk there:

“Xinhua also says China’s Central Military Commission has approved the formation of a Sansha garrison command responsible for “national defense” and “military operations.””

The news outlet (VOA) provided an “expert” to tell us what we already know:

“(W)hen you look at it in the broader subset of Chinese coercive diplomacy and how they’re using exhibitionary military moves to show their resolve and they couple that with political moves, it seems that they’re making a very significant leap forward in what they’re trying to accomplish in the area.”

Yeah, sure seems that way, doesn’t it?

Wonder if the expert read the China Daily account?

The Ministry of National Defense on Thursday announced the appointment of major officers to the Sansha military garrison, saying China’s military establishments in its own territory are irrelevant to other countries.

Students of diplomacy might compare and contrast that with Fujimura Osamu’s statement.

The China Daily is up to speed on the journo game of finding analysts to quote:

“Analysts said China will continue to strengthen control over Sansha to ensure its lawful interests and rights amid maritime disputes.”

The new garrison is not the first military facility on the island. They already have a naval facility there. It’s almost as if they were looking forward to expecting trouble of some kind.

China Central Television has an English-language news report that you can see here.

Turnabout is fair play, don’t you think? Wouldn’t this be a good opportunity for one of those speak-truth-to-power types to pepper the press secretary of either the Chinese president or premier with some questions? Such as:

“In your response to the Spratly Islands, are you considering diplomatic efforts to avoid military disputes?

“Some people say that the activities of some politicians and military officials in China are having a negative impact on relations between China and Japan/Vietnam/The Philippines/Brunei/Malaysia/Taiwan. (What do you think?)

And of course:

“What is your definition of “an integral part”?”

But we already know what the answers would be.

And the people with the eyes to see already know what is going on.

Sansha might be a city Leo Kottke would like:

One Response to “On the offensive: Continuing adventures in East Asian hegemonism”

  1. toadold said

    “July 26, 2012: The Philippines is finding itself without allies in its confrontation with China over ownership of small islands, reefs, and shoals belonging to the Philippines, at least according to international law. China is insisting that international agreements do not apply in these disputes. Chinese warships entering the Filipino exclusive economic zone (anything within 380 kilometers of land) are violating a 2002 agreement by nations bordering the South China Sea. This aggression is part of a plan to obtain control over fishing and oil exploration throughout the South China Sea (a 3.5 million square kilometer area). This would include such activities less than a hundred kilometers from the coasts of most other nations bordering the South China Sea. The only aspect of International law (the 1994 Law of the Sea treaty) that China seems inclined to recognize is that waters 22 kilometers from land are under the jurisdiction of the nation controlling the nearest land. Ships cannot enter these “territorial waters” without permission”.

    Just another case of China violating prior treaty agreements and just another case of the Obama administration hanging an ally out to swing in the wind.

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