Japan from the inside out

Crazed and confused

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, September 25, 2012

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…
– Rudyard Kipling, If

HERE’S an observation from Aceface, who uses that nom de net to avoid complications with his employer, a major news media outlet in Japan:

The media in the Sinosphere and South Korea are cavalierly spinning reports about Japan from the Western media. These are being translated into Japanese and placed on the Net, creating a vicious cycle. Another example is the false reports from the Liberty Times in Taiwan and the Joongang Ilbo of South Korea, which stated that Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou proposed a hearing at the International Court of Justice to resolve the Senkakus issue during his recent television appearance in Japan.

False reports in a newspaper? Who’d have guessed? Mr. Ma made the case for Taiwan’s possession of the Sankakus during the program broadcast on 21 August, but he said nothing about the ICJ. He did say that he wanted the issue to be settled peacefully and to strengthen ties with Japan, because that is also what the Taiwanese people want.


Basically, our claim is that sovereignty lies with the Republic of China, but we will shelve the dispute to work together peacefully and jointly develop the resources in the area. Our position that the islets are our territory is unshakeable, and cannot change in the slightest. But while territorial rights are not divisible, our country believes that the resources can be shared. If there is a consensus between the countries, we will shelve the dispute and work together to develop the resources in a peaceful and mutually beneficial manner.

Mr. Ma referred in the interview to his 5 August East China Sea Peace Initiative. It was offered to achieve those objectives and thereby relax tensions. He added:

I would like to take this opportunity to tell this to the people of Japan. Taiwan views its relationship with Japan as extremely important. Relations over the past few years have been better than they have been over the past 40 years. We do not want this issue to have an impact on those relations. Therefore, we call on Japan to face this dispute directly and work with us to resolve this issue in a peaceful manner.


For the past four years (i.e., his first term), I have considered the relationship with Japan to be a “Special Partnership”. People will have disputes, but it is most important for everyone to deal with each other sincerely to resolve their problems peacefully. That’s the path for a relationship between friends. My position has consistently been to maintain the approach of clearly separating the historical blessings and animosities and evaluate each fact as a fact. Friendly relations and cooperation will be the cornerstone of the bilateral ties between the Republic of China and Japan. I want to develop this relationship for our mutual benefit.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? His message was delivered to the Japanese public. Unfortunately, some people in Taiwan didn’t get the message, or else the president wasn’t serious. The Taiwanese have spent the past two days violating one of the terms of Mr. Ma’s East China Sea Peace Initiative: Self-restraint to prevent an escalation of confrontation.

At least 75 Taiwanese fishing ships will sail to the disputed Diaoyutai (Diaoyu or Senkaku) islands on Monday afternoon to protest Japan’s nationalization of the island chain and assert Taiwan’s fishing rights in the region, according to the event’s organizers.

They sailed, they came, and then they left. The Asahi Shimbun photo at the top of the post gives you an idea of what went on. It’s a scramble of Japanese Coast Guard vessels, Taiwanese fishing boats, and Chinese patrol boats. There was even a symbolic exchange of fire, but with another of the five basic elements of classical Chinese philosophy:

Coastguard vessels from Japan and Taiwan clashed with water cannon after dozens of Taiwanese boats escorted by patrol ships sailed into waters around Tokyo-controlled islands.

Japanese coastguard ships sprayed water at the fishing vessels as the Taiwanese patrol boats retaliated by directing their own high-pressure hoses at the Japanese ships.

Here was the big idea:

In addition to protesting the Japanese government’s recent purchase of three islets in the island group from their private owners to ramp up its sovereignty claim, the protest voyage is also aimed at asserting local fishermen’s rights to operate in the waters, around the islands, which have long been Taiwan’s traditional fishing grounds, Chen (Chu-sheng, head of the organizing committee) said.

And they had big plans:

The fishermen will try to penetrate the Japanese coast guard’s defense line to enter waters 12 nautical miles off the Diaoyutais and unfurl protest banners to vent their anger over frequent harassment during their fishing operations in the area, Chen said.

The participating fishermen have not ruled out the possibility of landing on any outcrop in the contested island chain, Chen said.

They had the backing of one part of Taiwan’s government.

Taiwan’s military has response measures in place for contingencies that could arise from a scheduled visit by dozens of Taiwanese fishing boats to the waters near the disputed Diaoyutai (Diaoyu or Senkaku) islands on Monday afternoon, says the country’s defense minister, Kao Hua-chu.

The military will beef up air patrols over the Diaoyutais and monitor the waters surrounding the islands in the East China Sea, Kao said…

The Coast Guard Administration will be responsible for escorting the fishing vessels during the visit to the Diaoyutais, while the military will provide related support, Kao said during a hearing at the Legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.

“The ministry has completed preparations for any response measures,” Kao said, adding that senior defense officials will be stationed at a command center in Taipei.

Aceface offers an explanation for this behavior:

The Taiwanese military is the legacy of Kuomintang dictatorship and modeled after the Soviet Red Army. It serves the party, not the country, which is why the ranking officers are mainly (外省人) mainlanders.

There was a gala demonstration before they set sail:

Thousands of activists took to the streets of Taipei to rally against Japan’s recent “purchase” of three islets in the disputed Diaoyutai chain during the “923 Baodiao Protest March” at 2:30 pm yesterday (the 23rd)…

The protesters chanted slogans such as “The Diaoyutais are ours” and called on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to join arms against Japan’s sovereignty claim to the territory. Political parties such as the New Party and the People First Party have expressed their support for the protests.

Here’s the New Party on the march, anti-Communist and labeled “conservative”:

And here are the marchers from the Labor Party and Alliance for Reunification, two “left-leaning” groups whose presence the PRC newspaper forgot to mention:

But the China Daily report said they wouldn’t sail into the 12-mile limit:

The fishermen plan to assemble 20 nautical miles southwest of the disputed islands at 5am Tuesday, and circle the islands afterward.

Former Chairman of the Yilan County Longline Fishery Association Lin Jih-cheng said that the fishermen will not set foot on the islands during the protest. They will, however, sail as close as 12 nautical miles off the island group, Lin said, adding that they will also communicate their concerns about fishing rights to the Japanese government via banners.

Fishermen the world over are complaining about the high cost of fuel, and this wasn’t a fishing trip, but they had a sugar daddy:

The operation was made possible with a NT$5 million (US$170,500) donation to subsidise fuel costs, Chen said.

The flotilla reached the contiguous waters (22-44 kilometers offshore) at 5:00 a.m. on the morning of the 25th, along with more than 10 Taiwanese Coast Guard vessels. A Taiwanese Navy ship monitored the situation from 56 kilometers offshore. Thereafter 10 fishing boats and six of the Coast Guard vessels entered Japan’s territorial waters at 8:00 a.m.

Said Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura Osamu:

We are working to collect information with a sense of urgency and we will make every effort to conduct warning and surveillance activities. This should be resolved in the context of good Japan-Taiwan relations, and we want to respond to this calmly.

The ships left the area by noon and were out of the contiguous area altogether by nightfall. They seem to have accomplished nothing more than getting in the way. Well, there’s another possibility.

None of the Chinese news reports above mention who chartered the fishing boats for their maritime protest, but the Japanese fingered mogul Tsai Eng-ming, the richest man in Taiwan. A billionaire, Mr. Tsai’s flagship company is Want Want China Holdings, and he made his money in the snack food and beverage business. They’re Taiwan’s largest rice cracker manufacturer. He also bought the local China Times newspaper and converted it from an anti- to a pro-Beijing publication. The first two articles above come from their Want China Times website.

Sources in Japan say that Taiwan’s China Times was noted for the quality of its articles and journalists. After Mr. Tsai bought the paper, however, the quality suffered and he pointed the newspaper’s perspective in the opposite direction.

This caused turmoil in the newsroom, resignations, and street protests by the reporters. Some charged that he had the paper’s reporters tail critics of the purchase and write slanderous articles about them.

Was his donation to promote a political view, to promote his rice crackers, or both? No one seems to know.

Meanwhile, the Chinese say they have 200 of their own fishing boats in the area and 10 fishery patrol vessels to defend their interests.

Also, the foreign ministers of China and South Korea met in New York at the UN to discuss the coordination of their strategy to apply international pressure on Japan regarding “historical issues”. South Korea had agreed that those issues were resolved in 1965, and China did the same in 1978. But why let legal documents get in the way of geopolitical rent-seeking and hegemony?

In fact, the joint Japan-China communique of 1972 that led to the reestablishment of relations contained this clause:

Neither of the two countries should seek hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region and each is opposed to efforts by any other country or group of countries to establish such hegemony.

Once upon a time, the actions of China and Taiwan were the sort of behavior that diplomats would have described as provocations. They still are, but people can’t bring themselves to talk that way anymore.

Aceface‏ adds:

The problem to start with is that the idea is spreading throughout East Asia that Japan will always fold whenever history is brought up. Another problem is that the axis of Japan’s Asia policy lies in China and South Korea. The postwar period for Japan seems to be over.

And now they have to figure out how to deal with neighbors who act in bad faith, and who’ve lost their heads and are blaming it on them.

Here’s how Want Want makes the money to spend on media outlet purchases and fishing boat charters.

11 Responses to “Crazed and confused”

  1. Aceface said

    “Sinosphere and South” is “Sinosphere and South Korea”
    Thanks, I’ll fix it. Was about to send you an e-mail.


  2. MKL said

    Excellent article. Most people in Taiwan don’t want to be involved in a conflict with Japan, in fact they have fond feelings for the country (you know how much they donated), this is all politics and a media circus. I’m sure president Ma notified the Japanese officials, that his gov is not involved and I’m sure Taiwan has zero to gain, if it gets involved into this stupid artificial conflict. Having a military conflict so close to Taiwan is actually very dangerous for the country’s sovereignty, I do hope that USA is watching closely what the Middle Kingdom is doing here.

  3. toadold said

    Well part of the US is watching with alarm what is going on with China, another part wants to run joint sea maneuvers the Chinese Navy, another part is talking dirty at news organizations who usually take the administration’s side who have asked questions about the debacle in Libya. Really it is like a demolition derby at sea by drunks. Japan had better be prepared to go its own way until the US 2012 election is over…..maybe. Why oh Why did we do the hit on Yamamoto/

  4. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

    This was very interesting, although I have not confirmed the facts (particularly if U.S. really demanded Japan to claim to Russia return of all 4 islands of its northern territory in return for the return of Okinawa).

    I do not have evidence, but if I imagine all these events are devised by China, Russia, Korea, North-Korea and U.S., many things appear combined well.

    Of course, I can forget it as a well written fiction. Either way, the fact that Japan has to fight alone someday somehow, will not change. I do not know when. By using the word “fight”, I don’t mean war or military conflict necessarily, but it is included as a matter of course, since to fight means to survive.

  5. yankdownunder said

    Once upon a time, the actions of China and Taiwan were the sort of behavior that diplomats would have described as provocations. They still are, but people can’t bring themselves to talk that way anymore.

    But they are quick to use that word for anything Japan does. Buying
    the islands was provocative. Japanese breathing is a provocation for some people.

  6. yankdownunder said

    Japan will always fold whenever history is brought up.

    Japan apologises over Taiwan boat incident.

    Japan not only apologized but paid compensation to boat owner,

    Japan is not using these islands and is not taking actions necessary to defend them. Japan must develop and defend the islands now.

  7. Harry said

    The Americans are caught in anti-USA riots in the Islamic world, so Japan needs a new constitution and more friends and allies in the Asia-Pacific.

    Is the “Alliance for Reunification” popular in Taiwan? China’s Senkaku takeover means that the next targets are Taiwan and Okinawa. I’m sure the Taiwanese people are well aware of that.

    In Shenzhen, anti-Japan rioters broke into CCP’s building. When an economic crisis breaks out, CCP most likely fails to govern the Mainland. I think the Kuomintang could possibly “get it back” under the forgotten slogan of 大陸反攻. It’s another One China policy, not of PRC but of ROC.
    I knew they needed tear gas and water cannon in Shenzhen, but I didn’t know they made it into the building.

    I’m going to have dig out that five-year old copy of the monthly Gendai, I think it was, with an article from Omae Kenichi about the breakup of the Sinosphere. I wasn’t impressed at the time (I thought he slapped it together), but it deserves another look.


  8. MKL said

    @Harry: Most Taiwanese would not call it reunification, they would see it as annexation. It’s weird, but Taiwanese want to go the safe way and most would like to keep it he way it is: Some murky grey area where nobody can really say what Taiwan officially is on paper, but in reality life continues like in every democratic sovereign country. I’m not sure how long can Taiwanese flow this way, at some point they will need to make a decision and stick with it.

    This article is very well written, it explains what was going on with the water battle:

    M: Sounds like the Japanese with Article 9 and the Security Treaty with the US. That link to the Taipei Times isn’t working, unfortunately.


  9. Ken said

    Taiwan (ROC) was also admitting Senkaku islets belong to Japan.
    Their text book;
    Appreciation letter to Japan;
    Appendix (PROC’s map of 1969);
    K: These links don’t seem to be working either.


  10. trapped in brazil said

    Nah, they are only dancing according to the script. I figure it would be something like this: The US wants China, Japan, and Korea to fight and exhaust each other. Then, as China declared war on an “ally”, the US can enter in a big war (and that’s what you need when your country is in a big economic crisis, a big war against someone you can win), then they (the US) can call off their debts to China and have all Chinese and Korean assets in US soil vested, as “war reparation”. And if Japan gets invaded and severely damaged in the process, the US can also kick in and not get out anymore, dissolving Japan’s sovereignty and making it into an unincorporated territory. And then, problem solved, less people, more jobs, more money, more power.
    No Honda, no Toyota, no Cherry, no Hyundai equals to a happy Detroit 🙂

    Or, if the USA have no guts or brains and I’m severely paranoid, it’s only the Chinese proxy (Taiwan) making their entry in the Asian circus (China is the domesticated lion who feigns ferocity according to it’s owner [the CCP], and Japan is the ballerina walking on the tightrope).

  11. Ken said


    I can see the contents but do you mean those do not hold good for this topic? Or I wonder if my PC is infected.
    K: When I click on the link, it says “page not found”. Everything else is working for me on the Internet today, so I don’t know what the problem is.


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