Japan from the inside out

Posts Tagged ‘east china sea’

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.

Posted in China, International relations, Military affairs, Taiwan | Tagged: , | 11 Comments »