East Asia this year has been marked by rising tensions over the Senkaku Islands (known in China as the Diaoyu Islands). As has been widely reported, China has dispatched government patrol and surveillance ships to intrude into Japan’s territorial waters off the islands, which lie in the East China Sea. Meanwhile, Beijing’s rhetoric has been more heated. In April, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson appeared to indicate that the Chinese government regarded the Senkaku Island issue as a core interest for China. This was the first government use of a term normally reserved for highly sensitive Chinese political concerns such as Taiwan, Tibet and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. And in recent days, China has made the very provocative decision to establish an air defense zone that encompasses the Senkaku skies.
With concerns rising that the situation could spiral out of control, it seems worth reviewing the facts regarding the sovereignty of the Senkaku and the options available for a sensible resolution to the issue.
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Ever since it incorporated the Senkaku Islands into Japanese territory through a Cabinet decision in 1895, the Japanese government has consistently taken the position that the islands are an integral part of the territory of Japan. This stance accords with both international law and the historical facts. The Senkaku have consistently been under Japan’s effective control, except for a period (from 1945 to 1972) when the islands were placed under the administration of the United States as part of Okinawa prefecture.
Before 1971, neither China nor Taiwan made any claims to “territorial sovereignty” over the Senkaku Islands. For 76 years, neither government expressed any objection to Japanese sovereignty over the islands.
Why the change in position? In the late 1960s, a UN agency, the Bangkok-based Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE), surveyed the waters around the Senkaku. The survey suggested potentially rich deposits of oil beneath the seabed. After the ECAFE released its findings, in 1971, the Republic of China (Taiwan) made its first territorial claim to the islands. Several months later the People’s Republic of China followed suit.
So, let’s review the history of the issue more carefully. For ten years starting 1885, Japan conducted field surveys on the Senkaku Islands, scrupulously confirming that the islands had never been inhabited and showed no traces of having been under the control of China’s Qing Dynasty.
Based on this research, the Japanese government decided in January 1895 to erect national territorial markers on the islands, officially incorporating the Senkaku Islands into the territory of Japan. This administrative action was consistent with international law, namely the internationally accepted legal theory of terra nullius (land belonging to no one) concerning the rights of acquisition through occupation.
The Historical Record
As the record shows, Japanese inhabited the Senkaku from 1895 until immediately before the start of World War II. Japanese people sometimes lived on the islands to harvest albatross feathers. During another period, a factory was built to process dried bonito. The population of one of the islands, Uotsuri, topped 200 at one point. In 1920, residents of Ishigaki Island, which was under the jurisdiction of Okinawa prefecture, rescued Chinese fishermen caught in a storm in waters near the Senkaku. The Consul of the Republic of China in Nagasaki sent a signed and sealed letter of appreciation for the rescue in the area of “the Senkaku Islands in the Yaeyama District of the Japanese Empire’s Okinawa Prefecture.”The letter cited the names of the residents of Ishigaki Island, whom the consul noted “were willing and generous in the rescue operation.”
Just over three years after the People’s Republic of China’s birth, a January 8, 1953 article in the People’s Daily, an organ of the Communist Party of China had the Senkaku as Japanese territory. A WorldAtlas published in China in 1960 showed the islands as part of Japan. According to notes taken at meetings of the Chinese government around 1950, copies of which were recently obtained exclusively by the Jiji Press news agency, Chinese government officials were using the Japanese name “Senkaku Islands,” indicating that they considered the Senkaku part of Okinawa prefecture.
When Okinawa prefecture was provisionally placed under U.S. administration in 1945, the U.S. military used some of the Senkaku Islands as firing and bombing ranges. With the reversion of Okinawa to Japanese rule in 1972, the Senkaku returned to Japan, as part of the prefecture. The U.S. has clearly and repeatedly stated the Senkaku are “within the range of application” of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.
China argues that Japan stole the Senkaku Islands during the Sino-Japanese war, from August 1894 to April 1895. The claim suggests Japan “usurped” the islands using the turmoil of war as an excuse. But in making that assertion, China deliberately ignores two key facts: (1) Over a period of at least 10 years before the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, the evidence showed that the Senkaku were terra nullius, and not under the control of China’s Qing Dynasty; and (2) Japan incorporated the islands into its sovereign territory using procedures in accordance with international law, prior to the conclusion of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which ended the Sino-Japanese War.
ISLAND DISPUTES BETWEEN JAPAN AND CHINA
The Okino Tori Shima islands, 1,118 miles south of Tokyo, consists of two rocks which barely pierce the water during high tide. Although the islands themselves are worthless, owning them gives Japan exclusive fishing and mining rights to more than 154,452 square miles of ocean that surround around them. Rich cobalt and manganese deposits may lie in the seabed offshore and the waters are teaming with fish and squid that help feed Japan's voracious appetite for seafood.
The Law of the Sea states the islands must be above sea level. To maintain their claim on the islands, which are only 27 inches above sea, the Japanese government spent several million dollars to build a wave absorbing barrier to keep the islands from being eroded by the sea.
The South China Sea in which the islands lie is important to Japan. About 70 percent of Japan’s imported oil passes through the South China Sea. China claims most the South China Sea.
History of the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands, Japan and China
Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands map Both China and Japan claim the fish-rich and potentially-oil-rich islands---known to the Japanese as the Senkaku Islands, to the Chinese as the Diaoyu Islands and to the Taiwanese as the Tiaoyutai Islands---between Okinawa and Taiwan in the East China Sea. The Senkaku Islands are in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture. Covering only seven square kilometers of uninhabited, rocky land. they comprise five islets--Uotsurijima, Kita-kojima, Minami-kojima, Kubashima and Taishoto--and three rocks. The islands are now uninhabited but in the 1940s there was a bonito processing factory on Uotsurijima, the largest of the Senkakus. China and Japan both see the islands lying between them as symbols of national pride.
On January 14, 1895: The Japanese government formally obtained control of the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands. Japan asserts the islands were not owned by anyone prior to their occupation while China maintains it has sovereignty over the island chain for centuries. On September 2, 1945: Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands, as part of Ryukyu Islands, came under the US goverment's control after the surrender of Japan at the end of the second world war.
On June 17, 1971: The Agreement between Japan and the United States of America Concerning the Ryukyu Islands and the Daito Islands was signed between Japan and the US, returning the Senkaku Islands (as part of the Ryukyu Islands) to Japanese administration. This triggered the first anti-Japanese protests, led by Taiwan. On: August 12, 1978: The Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty was signed between China and Japan, in which the dispute over the isles is put aside for future resolution.
On July 14, 1996: Right-wing Japanese Youth Association members landed and built a lighthouse on one of the islets, prompting a series of protests from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. On September 26, 1996: Hong Kong activist David Chan drowned after jumping into waters off the Diaoyu Islands during a pro-China protest. On September 29, 1996: Tens of thousands of people gathered for a candlelight vigil in Victoria Park to mourn David Chan’s death and protest against Japan’s claim of the islands. On October 7, 1996: Three activists from Hong Kong and Taiwan landed on the Diaoyu Islands. On March 24, 2004: Activist Feng Jinhua and six others from China land on the Diaoyu Islands, the first time mainland activists successfully landed on the islands.
Japan’s Claim to the Senkaku-Diaoyus
The Japanese claim on the Senkaku islands dates back 1895 when the islands were declared by the government as part of Okinawa prefecture. After the signing of San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951, Japan formally lost all of the territories it acquired after 1895. There was little interest in the islands until a geological surveys released in 1968 and 1972 reported their might be oil and minerals around the islands. Also at stake are the fishing rights. Financial Times among others has pointed out Beijing “did no challenge Japan’s sovereignty claim” until learning that the sea floor near the Senkakus could hold oil deposits.
During the U.S. occupation of Okinawa, the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands were used for military drills by U.S. forces. When the U.S. returned Okinawa to Japan in 1972, the Japanese also claimed the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands. When Japan and China signed a joint communique in 1972, the issues of the islands was not raised.
When China and Japan signed a peace treaty in 1978, vice-premier Deng Xiaoping said the dispute over the islands "will be shelved until the next generation comes up with a solution." Also in 1978, the ultra-rightist group Nihon Seinen Sha (Japan Youth Federation) set up a makeshift lighthouse on the largest of the islands. After of period of time the same group returned to the island to rebuild the lighthouse and seek official recognition.
China’s Claim to the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands
In 1971, Taiwan and China both officially claimed the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands as theirs. Yutaka Ito and Toru Makinoda wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: China holds that Japan stole the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands at the end of the Sino-Japanese War. China focuses on the 1943 Cairo Declaration that stipulated territory acquired by Japan from the Qing dynasty should be returned to the Republic of China. As Japan accepted the 1945 Potsdam Declaration, which called for implementation of the Cairo Declaration, China should have a valid claim to territorial sovereignty over the islands.[Source: Yutaka Ito and Toru Makinoda, Yomiuri Shimbun, October 13, 2012]
Concerning China's claims, based on the Cairo Declaration, the government holds that the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands were not included in the territory mentioned in the declaration, and that China also recognized the islands were part of Japan's territory after the Potsdam Declaration was announced. [Ibid]
Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba rebutted China's claims, noting that China first asserted its territorial sovereignty claim over the islands in the 1970s. Gemba also pointed out a Chinese map of the world published in 1960 clearly identified the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands as "the Senkaku Group of Islands," as well as the name "Uotsurijima island." Also, the minister said there was a description of "the Senkaku Islands, Yaeyama District, Okinawa Prefecture, Empire of Japan" in a letter of appreciation sent to Japan from the then consul of the Republic of China in Nagasaki in 1920. [Ibid]
Senkaku-Diaoyu Island Dispute Heats Up
Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands map In 1996, ultra-nationalists erected on a lighthouse (actually a thin aluminum beacon about 15 feet high) on the main Senkaku-Diaoyu island. By this time four of the five islands were technically the private property of two Tokyo businessmen active in ultra-nationalist politics. Beijing was upset by Tokyo's tolerance of the actions by the ultra-rightists.
The people of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong were all unified in their disgust with Japan. In Hong Kong in 1996, protestors took to the streets and burned a Japanese flag. One Hong Kong teacher told Newsweek, "Our dream is that the Beijing navy would sail in from the left, the Taiwan navy would sail in from the right and we would take the Japanese together as a strong national force."
In September 1996, a freighter with 18 protestors from Hong Kong and Taiwan was turned back from the islands with the lighthouse by Japanese coast guard ships. Four protestors jumped into the water to symbolically claim the seas around the island for China. One of the protesters, 45-year-old David Chan, drowned in the choppy seas.
In March 2004, seven Chinese nationalists land on Senkaku-Diaoyu. They were arrested by Japanese police and coast guard personnel that arrived by helicopter. The seven were detained for a couple days and deported. The incident got quite a bit of press coverage in Japan and stirred up nationalist sentiments. In Beijing, a few dozen people held ani-Japanese demonstrations outside the Japanese embassy.
China has also been angered by textbooks that show disputed island in the East China Sea as belonging to Japan.
Natural Gas in Waters Between Japan and China
Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands map There are large undersea natural gas fields in waters claimed by both China and Japan in the East China Sea about halfway between Okinawa and the Chinese mainland. The Chunxiao and Tianwaitian natural gas fields lie in China’s exclusive economic zone. The Chunxiao field covers 8,500 square miles and holds up to 9 trillion cubic feet of gas, enough to meet China’s needs for seven years.
The area is near a group of disputed islands claimed by Japan and China known as the Senkaku to the Japanese, Diaoyu to the Chinese and Tiaoyutai to the Taiwanese. The actual line of demarcation of the boundary of the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) between China and Japan is a matter of dispute. Japan wants to make a deal but China seems more intent and trying to get away with as much as it can without actually violating international law. China so far has drilled only waters in its EEZ but it has angered Japan because these areas are so close to the disputed border.
According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea each coastal nation controls a an economic coastal zone that extends 200 nautical miles (230 miles, 375 kilometers) from the shoreline. The distance between Okinawa ad China is about 400 miles. Japan advocated a median line between the two countries. China advocates setting its economic border on the eastern extension of the continental shelf, a concept that pushed the border 50 miles of f the Okinawa archipelago. It seems unlike the two countries will ever agree on the line.
An area of 400 square kilometers, or 150 square miles, lies at the heart of the dispute. Japan has suggested that Japan and China tap the gas fields together. Thus far China has rejected these offers. Japan has also demanded that China make pubic its survey and drilling results because two of the three major gas fields that China found are believed to extend into territory claimed by Japan. Beijing has reportedly awarded exploration right to Chinese companies to explore blocks that extend into Japan’s EEZ.
Four main natural gas fields from north to south (Chinese name in parentheses): 1) Asunaro (Longjing); 2) Kusunoki (Duanqiao); 3) Kashi (Tianwaitian), closest to the Chinese mainland; 4) Shirakaba (Chunxiao)
Drilling for Natural Gas in Waters Between Japan and China
Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands map, areas claimed by Japan and China In June 2004, China began developing the Chunxiao site. It is now aggressively drilling at Chunxiao and Tianwaitian while Japan has yet go beyond doing geological surveys partly because the most promising areas for oil and gas are in disputed areas. China has gas production platforms less than a mile west of waters claimed by Japan. Japan claims that this platform is sucking gas from a deposit that extends over Japan’s side of the line.
In 2004, China began laying 291-mile gas pipeline between Shanghai to Chunxiao. Ironically $120 million for the $1 billion project came from Japanese ad.
Japan has earmarked $125 million to search for oil I the disputed area. In March 2005, the Japanese hired a Norwegian seismic ship to do surveys for oil and gas, While it was doing so it was treated as a spy ship by the Chinese and followed by Chinese ships. Japan is spending $100 million for its own seismic ship.
In 2005, the Japanese government awarded the Japanese company Teikoku Oil right to drill for oil at three sites near the “median line” that Japan says divide the Japan’s and China’s EEZ. In July 2005, China called Japan’s plan for drilling “a violation.”
In September 2005, Japan urged China to stop developing the disputed gas fields and called for joint exploration. In March 2006, China proposed that Japan and China jointly explore for oil and gas at one site the East China Sea together. Japan rejected the proposal. The site proposed by China is thought to be one that doesn’t contain much oil or gas. The disputed areas where gas has been found were not part of the proposal. Japan repeated its suggestion that the disputed areas should be jointly developed.
In October 2006, Chinese President Hu and Japanese Prime Minister Abe agreed to aim to resolve the dispute early with some of joint development. And promised to make the East China Sea a “sea of peace, cooperation and friendship.”
China began production at the Chunxiao field in the first half of 2006. An official with CNOOC said China intends to “launch normal production operations on its own territory.” According to a CNOOC year end report for 2006 listed on its website production at Tianwaitian field was 113,267 cubic meters of natural gas a day and 42 barrels of oil a day. Production is believed to be much higher than that. No production figures were given for the Chunxiao, Canxue and Duanqiao fields.
Natural Gas Deal Between Japan and China
In 2008, China and Japan agreed to share the development of the Shirakaba and Asunaro gas fields. The agreement to develop the Shirakaba field was announced during a visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Japan.
Japan has offered to provide much of the funding for joint development of natural gas deposits in the East China Sea. China is reluctant to a agree to joint development because it feels that such an agreement would invalidate China’s claim on the entire continental shelf.
In June 2008, Japan and China reached an accord on developing the natural gas fields in the East China Sea, with Japan investing in a gas field already operated by China (the Chunxiao field) and the two nations jointly exploring an area not yet developed (the Asunaro gas field, which China calls the Longjing field). An agreement was not made on the Asunaro field, in part because of South Korean claims in the area.
After the agreement was made Japan discovered that China was developing a natural gas field known as Tiawaitan to the Chinese and Kashi to the Japanese and lodged a complaint saying development of the site went against the sprit of the agreement. China responded by saying that it had the right to drill at the site.
Comparing the Senkaku-Diaoyu and South China Sea Dispute s
China's strategy of using fishing boats and fisheries patrol vessels to give the impression that the area belongs to China is similar to what China is doing in the South China Sea. Takashi Shiraishi wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: Probably because of such developments, not a few people in Japan and elsewhere have tried to address the Senkaku-Diaoyu issue by coupling it with the territorial disputes in the South China Sea. This is valid if we want to understand such questions as China's maritime strategy. But it is important to remember that the issues surrounding the Japanese islands in the East China Sea and the disputed South China Sea are different in nature as territorial issues. [Source: Takashi Shiraishi, Yomiuri Shimbun, September 24, 2012. Shiraishi is president of both the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies and the Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization]
The Senkaku Islands have been under Japan's effective control. It is Japan's position that there is no territorial conflict on the Senkakus, whatever China says with respect to the sovereign status of the islands.Therefore, there was no need for Japan to provoke China by taking a theatrical posture for the purpose of declaring Japanese sovereignty over the Senkakus. It would have been good enough to maintain this country's effective control of the island group calmly. [Ibid]
The territorial disputes in the South China Sea are of different nature, because all the parties involved--Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as China--acknowledge that they have disputes over islands, reefs and shoals there. This is why the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China signed the "Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea" in 2002. But tensions have mounted over the issues in recent years. [Ibid]
As such, it is clear that the nature of the Senkaku issue is different from that of the disputes in the South China Sea. China, nonetheless, is expected to keep trying to convince the international community of its own assertion that it has an ongoing territorial dispute with Japan and keep the on-site conflict alive around the Japanese islands. In response, Japan should calmly but determinedly proceed with the enhancement of the Japan Coast Guard's maritime policing capabilities and the buildup of the country's defense capabilities as a way of making its sovereign rule of the Senkakus unwavering. Self-help must be the basis of such efforts. [Ibid]
As for the disputes in the South China Sea, the point at issue is whether conflicts over maritime sovereignty should be resolved bilaterally or multilaterally through the formulation a regional code of conduct in the sea. It also should be noted that the South China Sea remains prone to frequent incidents related to territorial rows. To police such maritime irregularities, the countries concerned are deploying vessels of their law enforcement entities, such as maritime surveillance and coast guard ships, instead of naval vessels whose activities are rigidly regulated by international rules of engagement. Under the circumstances, there is a significant possibility that those non-naval vessels will unexpectedly clash with each other. [Ibid] To prepare for such contingencies, Japan, in cooperation with the United States, Australia and Indonesia, among other countries, should strongly urge China and ASEAN countries to start working again on formulating the proposed regional code of conduct in the South China Sea. [Ibid]
Solution to the Diaoyu-Senkaku Conflict: Making it a Marine Reserve?
The marine environmental lawyer Tom Appleby, who was involved in the creation of the Chagos archipelago marine reserve has started a petition on change.org for a similar reserve centered around the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. As tensions rise in the China Sea, Japan, Taiwan and China could easily sleepwalk into conflict, with horrific consequences for all sides and the world in general. A new focus is needed to end this brinkmanship. The marine environment is in dire straights and desperately needs breathing spaces. A marine protected area around Diaoyu / Diaoyutai / Senkaku would demonstrate the global statesmanship of all the parties and help conserve the ocean for future generations. [Ibid]
Japan and China Engage in 'Propaganda War' on Senkaku-Diaoyu Dispute
Yutaka Ito and Toru Makinoda wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: Japan had until recently been reluctant to internationally air its claims to sovereignty over the islands, over which it denies the existence of any territorial dispute with China. However, the ongoing standoff over the islands has taken on aspects of a propaganda war aimed at the international community, prompting Japan to reverse its policy and appeal to world opinion regarding its claim. [Source: Yutaka Ito and Toru Makinoda, Yomiuri Shimbun, October 13, 2012] Beijing began a large-scale propaganda campaign to win over international opinion, especially in the United States. In September 2012, China ran advertising spreads in major U.S. newspapers asserting its claim to the Senkaku Islands. In addition, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi made remarks about the islands at the U.N. General Assembly at the end of September, saying Japan "stole" them from China. [Ibid]
The remarks were apparently intended to insinuate the Japan-China dispute over the islands should not remain as a mere bilateral issue, but rather that it poses a great challenge to the postwar international order. China apparently aims to lure international opinion--especially public opinion in the United States--away from Japan, as China was allied with the United States during World War II. [Ibid]
According to sources familiar with Japan-China diplomatic issues, it is believed China is ready to take any measures to have Japan recognize the existence of a territorial dispute over the islands. The Chinese finance minister, the governor of the People's Bank of China and representatives of four major Chinese banks did not attend the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Tokyo, in an apparent effort to accentuate the view that a dispute exists. [Ibid]
In response to such Chinese moves, the government is considering a strategy of lobbying for international support by dispatching the Foreign Ministry's top three parliamentary ministers, including Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and a special advisor to the prime minister, to relevant countries to explain the Senkaku Islands are an integral part of Japan's territory, both historically and under international law. Foreign Ministry officials have been explaining Japan's position on the Senkaku issue to officials at various embassies in Tokyo and in the overseas media. "It will be more effective if Cabinet ministers and politicians explain the issue on their own," a senior ministry official said. [Ibid]
Japan does not acknowledge a territorial dispute between itself and China. Therefore, Tokyo has been reluctant to start a propaganda war with Beijing over the sovereignty of the islands because it might give the impression to the international community that a territorial dispute between the two exists. However, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura emphasized at a press conference Wednesday the government would change its policy. "We need to make our case to the international community by explaining our stance and opinions to foreign countries and overseas media on various occasions," Fujimura said. [Ibid]
Haruki Murakami and Yan Lianke on the Senakau-Diaoyu Dispute
The Chinese writer Yan Lianke wrote in the New York Times, “Raucous clashes triggered by the recent Sino-Japanese territorial dispute have made creative writing impossible for me. I’ve been devoting all my time to following the news, anxiously delving into every new development. Again and again, I ask myself: What turns an interminable island dispute into a fireball? Who can put out the flames? Who can make politicians sit down to sip iced tea together and engage in calm and courteous dialogue? Where are the voices of reason? I long for more rational voices, I long to hear from my fellow writers. [Source: Yan Lianke, New York Times, October 5, 2012. Yan Lianke is a Chinese novelist and short story writer based in Beijing. English translations of his works include “Serve the People!” and “Dream of Ding Village.” This article was translated from the Chinese by Jane Weizhen Pan and Martin Merz.
I was deeply touched after reading translations of the Nobel laureate Kenzaburo Oe’s views on the territorial issues and Haruki Murakami’s recent commentary warning of the damage caused by the outbursts of nationalism. My long admiration for these Japanese writers now extends well beyond their literary achievements. “It’s like cheap liquor,” Murakami wrote, referring to nationalism. “It gets you drunk after only a few shots and makes you hysterical. It makes you speak loudly and act rudely ... but after your drunken rampage you are left with nothing but an awful headache the next morning.”
In the face of these inflammatory disputes between Japan and China, Japanese writers are taking the lead in bringing a measure of reason to the discussion. Compared with their humanity and courage, I am ashamed of myself as a Chinese writer for my slow response. “I fear that as both an Asian and Japanese writer,” Murakami writes, “the steady achievements we’ve made (in deepening cultural exchanges and understanding with our Asia neighbors) will be hugely damaged” because of the recent problems. [Ibid]
I understand Murakami’s concern. However, I have to say that culture and literature have always been vulnerable to politics. Historically, cultural and literary exchanges have always been the first to take a hit whenever border disputes arise. It makes me sigh every time I see culture and literature treated like festive lanterns---hung out in extravagant displays whenever needed and then discarded when the excitement is over. Again and again, I pray in these dark nights: Please, no more guns and drums. All wars are disastrous. The bloodstains of the Sino-Japanese war during World War II remain vivid even today in our collective memory. [Ibid]
“We are all human beings,” Murakami wrote in his powerful Jerusalem Prize award acceptance speech delivered in Israel in 2009, “individuals transcending nationality and race and religion, fragile eggs faced with a solid wall called The System. To all appearances, we have no hope of winning. The wall is too high, too strong---and too cold. If we have any hope of victory at all, it will have to come from our believing in the utter uniqueness and irreplaceability of our own and others” souls and from the warmth we gain by joining souls together.
I agree with him. For ordinary people, no one wins a war. Death is our only destiny. In the face of war, we are all fragile eggs. If only more intellectuals in Japan, Korea and China could step forward and speak with the voice of reason instead of spreading hatred and indulging in emotional outbursts, instead of standing aside indifferently, perhaps we could lower the temperature and bring some much-needed iced tea to people inflamed with territorial fervor. I am painfully aware of the feeble stature of writers and intellectuals in this complex world. But I believe if we are ever to be useful, now is the time. [Ibid]
In his essay, Murakami mentioned that his and the works of other Japanese authors had been removed from shelves in bookstores in China. This is a surprise for me. Only a few days ago I saw Japanese literary works on display as usual in All Sages Bookstore in Beijing. But I believe that what Murakami reported must have happened somewhere in China. China is a large country. Many people here live with anxiety every day, for reasons they themselves may not even understand. All the time, they wait for a channel to vent their frustrations. It was because of these frustrations that vandalism and assaults occurred during the recent demonstrations. This behavior not only is disturbing for the Japanese people, but also for many Chinese. As a Chinese writer, I am ashamed for my compatriots who took part in the vandalism, yet I feel for their inarticulate powerlessness and frustration. I know it is absurd and wrong for bookstores to remove books by Japanese authors, but I also understand the concerns bookstore staff members may have. “Anything can happen in today’s China,” is a theme that often appears in my literary works. But, at the same time, a sense of powerlessness and sadness is always real for me. [Ibid]
I finished the first draft of my latest novel in August. The last part is filled with the absurdity and horrors that have been playing out in real life today. In fact, the ending is about what has been happening in China and Japan, and what everyone fears will happen. I am embarrassed for the lack of imagination. My novel is not an irrational prophesy of war, and now I don’t know how to change the ending. But I do know that---in any nation---if the voices of reason are not heard, disaster can strike at any time, and it is the ordinary people who will suffer. [Ibid]
I know little of territorial issues, politics and military matters. My love for literature and culture, however, knows no borders. Compared to those who devote all their attention to territorial aggrandizement, I am more devoted to world literature and culture. As a Chinese writer, I long for the day when we can let politics be politics, and culture and literature will be left alone. Culture and literature are the shared bond of mankind. When political instabilities arise, I hope this bond will not again be the first casualty. After all, culture and literature are the root of our existence, and cultural exchange is about sharing universal emotions and experiences. When culture is abandoned, when literature is discarded only to gather dust, when the root of our existence is severed, does the size of a territory really matter?
United States and the Senkaku-Diaoyus Dispute
In December 2012, the Japanese news service Kyodo reported: “:The U.S. Senate approved a key defense policy bill stipulating that Washington acknowledges Japanese control of the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands and that they fall under the scope of a bilateral security treaty.The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2013 which covers a year from October said, "The United States reaffirms its commitment to the government of Japan under Article V of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security." [Source: Kyodo, December 5, 2012]
"While the United States takes no position on the ultimate sovereignty of the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands, the United States acknowledges the administration of Japan over the Senkaku Islands," the bill said, adding, "The unilateral actions of a third party will not affect United States acknowledgement of the administration of Japan over the Senkaku Islands," a phrase apparently referring to China's aggressive stance on the dispute with Japan over the islets in the East China Sea. Under the Japan-U.S. security treaty, the United States would defend Japan in the event of an armed attack. U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill after passage of the House of Representatives. [Ibid]
Stating the United States is opposed to any claimant's efforts to coerce or threaten to use force or use force in seeking to resolve sovereignty and territorial issues in the East China Sea, the amendment says the country reaffirms its commitment to the Japanese government under Article V of the 1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. The amendment was co-sponsored with a bipartisan group of senators, including John McCain, a Republican. The U.S. defense authorization act has often been amended over diplomatic issues including sanctions against Iran over suspected development of nuclear weapons. [Ibid]
In October 2012, Jiji Press reported: “A group of former senior White House officials have notified the Chinese government of the U.S. understanding that the Senkaku Islands are covered by the bilateral security treaty with Japan, said Joseph Nye, former U.S. assistant defense secretary, on Saturday. During a recent visit to China, former senior U.S. officials, including Nye and Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state, met with Vice Premier Li Keqiang and other officials on Tuesday and reiterated that Article 5 of the treaty is applicable to the island group in the East China Sea, also claimed by China, Nye told a symposium held in Tokyo. [Source: Jiji Press, October 28, 2012]
At the same event, Armitage said "there is no quick solution" to the long-standing territorial row between the two countries. According to Armitage, Beijing is "trying to drive a wedge" between the United States and Japan by asking Washington to take an ambiguous position on the issue. If China attacks Japan, the United States would defend its close ally, Armitage said. According to Nye, now a Harvard University professor, the former officials' visit was made at the request of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to clarify the U.S. stance on the Senkaku-Diaoyu issue to the Chinese side. [Ibid]
Image Sources: 1) Visualizing Culture, MIT Education 2) 3) History Wiz 4) 5) 6) 7) University of Texas maps, 8) Getty Images
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2009 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated December 2012