The Sino-Japanese Confrontation

Security in Northeast Asia

The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 11, Issue 21, No. 3, May 27, 2013.


Much Ado over Small Islands: The Sino-Japanese Confrontation over Senkaku/Diaoyu1
Gavan McCormack



More than six decades from the San Francisco Treaty that purportedly resolved the Asia-Pacific War and created a system of peace, East Asia in 2013 remains troubled by the question of sovereignty over a group of tiny, uninhabited islands. The governments of Japan, China, and Taiwan all covet and claim sovereignty over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.
These tiny islands, together with other scattered outcroppings across the Western Pacific, assume today some of the weight that attached almost a century ago to the vast domain of Northeast China (“Manchuria”), with comparable potential to plunge the region into conflict. If the countries of the region are to transcend the 19th and 20th century eras of Japanese imperialism and US Cold War hegemony and construct a 21st century of peace, cooperation, and prosperity, the Senkaku/Diaoyu issue must somehow first be addressed.

1. The Long View

The islands known in Japanese as Senkaku and in Chinese as Diaoyu are little more than rocks in the ocean, but they are rocks on which there is a real prospect of peace and cooperation in the region foundering.It is a problem that I first addressed just over 40 years ago, and on which I have published other occasional essays more recently.2
The Senkaku/Diaoyu problem calls to mind the research on which I once engaged on the “Manchurian problem,” which also arose over how to draw a line dividing “our” from “your” territory, a life-line that absolutely had to be protected. Because the line early 20th century Japan then drew was unacceptable to China, the dispute over it led in due course to the catastrophe of war. “Senkaku” is of course not to be compared to the vast domains that were then at stake in “Manchuria,” but its importance far outweighs its barren and unpopulated rocks and focuses similarly passionate, uncompromising sentiment.
While economic integration in East Asia proceeds by leaps and bounds and popular culture flows freely, the region has little sense of shared history, identity or direction and it is still framed by the security architecture of the Cold War. The difficulty is compounded by the process of gradual, but fundamental, shift in the power balance that prevailed throughout the 20th century. China rises and Japan declines, a phenomenon that may be encapsulated in a single set of statistics. The Japan that as proportion of global GDP was 15 per cent in 1990 fell below 10 per cent in 2008 and has been projected to fall to 6 per cent in 2030 and 3.2 per cent in 2060, while the China that was 2 per cent in 1990 is predicted to reach 25 per cent in 2030 and 27.8 per cent in 2060.3 It is that shift in relative weight, perhaps more than anything that disturbs Japan. Islands that in themselves are trivial come to carry heavy symbolic weight.
In the long historical perspective, it is possible to view the past millennium in Asia as a sequence of more-or-less hegemonic orders: the Pax Mongolica (1206 to 1368), the Chinese “Tribute” system or Pax Sinica of Ming and Qing dynasties (1368 to 1911), the short-lived Pax Nipponica (roughly 1931 to 1945), and the still-continuing Pax Americana (born with US victory in the Asia-Pacific War and enshrined with the San Francisco Treaty in effect from 1952). The last of these, however, entering upon its seventh decade shows signs of severe strain, not least because China is too great and too tied to all the major US alliance parties to be excluded or contained. President Obama may yet succeed in renewing and reinforcing the fabric of Pax Americana alliances, and thereby in maintaining its military and political pre-eminence under the Pacific Tilt doctrine declared early in 2012, but a very different possibility is occasionally to be glimpsed: a post-hegemonic order, a concert of states or commonwealth, a Pax Asia.

Looking towards such a future, then Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo agreed with China’s president Hu Jintao at their summit meeting in February 2008 that the East China Sea should be made a “Sea of Peace, Cooperation and Friendship,”4 and at the bilateral summit in September, 2009, a year and a half later, Hatoyama Yukio proposed that it be transformed into a “Sea of Fraternity” (Yuai no umi),5 to which Hu is said to have responded positively. Three months later, in the heyday of the newly elected Democratic Party government in Japan, Ozawa Ichiro led a, 600-strong, semi-official friendship mission to Beijing. That moment was the high point of a mood of empathetic cooperation. It pointed to a possible way forward, one in which sovereignty issues would be shelved and the development of resources resolved cooperatively (as indeed foreshadowed by several agreements reached and to some extent implemented during the early 21st century years), evolving gradually into some kind of regional community. The mood did not last long, however, and by 2013 it seemed an age away.

2. What are These Islands and What is Their Significance?

The Senkaku/Diaoyu islands group comprises basically five uninhabited islands, more correctly islets (plus several even smaller outcrops), known respectively under their Japanese and Chinese names as Uotsuri/Diaoyudao, Kita Kojima/Bei Xiaodao, Minami Kojima/Nan Xiaodao, Kuba/Huangwei and Taisho/Chiwei. The largest (Uotsuri/Diaoyu; literally “Fish-catch” in Japanese, “Catch-fish” in Chinese) is 4.3 square kilometres and the total area of all five just 6.3 square kilometres. The islands are spread over a wide area of sea, about 27 kilometres separating the core cluster of three islands (Uotsuri, Kita Kojima and Minami Kojima) from Kuba, and about 110 from Taisho.6 They are located in relatively shallow waters at the edge of the Chinese continental shelf, 330 kilometres east of the China mainland coast, 170 kilometres northeast of Taiwan, and about the same distance north of Yonaguni (or Ishigaki) islands in the Okinawa group, separated from the main Okinawan islands by a deep (maximum 2,940 metres)7 underwater trench known as the “Okinawa Trough” or in China as the “Sino-Ryukyu Trough.”
Chinese documents from the 14th century record and name the islands as important navigational points on the maritime route between coastal China (Foochow) and the Ryukyu kingdom capital at Shuri, especially necessary for tribute missions during Ming and Qing dynasties. China sent the Ryukyu kingdom ten such missions and Ryukyu dispatched 281 to the Chinese court in return between the 16th and 19th centuries. Ryukyuan ships heading farther afield, on trading missions to Southeast Asia, also almost certainly used this same route.8 Ownership, however, did not greatly concern anyone. The European state system with its Westphalian notions of sovereignty was an alien concept. It appears that nobody actually settled there.
Two late 19th century developments wrought decisive change. In 1879 the Meiji government forcibly extinguished the Ryukyu kingdom’s residual sovereignty (building upon the partial subjection accomplished by Satsuma following its invasion in 1609) and incorporated the Ryukyus (as Okinawa) within the Japanese state, unilaterally severing the Ryukyu’s membership in the Beijing-centred tribute system and bringing the modern, imperialist state system that would replace it closer to Senkaku/Diaoyu.
As China protested the Japanese state’s encroachments in the East China Sea, US president Grant played a role in attempting to mediate a Sino-Japanese settlement. What Japan most sought, however, was a comprehensive revision of the US-Japan Treaty that opened relations between the two countries in 1871. It wanted the same unequal treaty rights (“most favoured nation” status) in mainland China as were enjoyed by the established imperialist powers. In return it offered to split the Ryukyus: ceding the south-western islands of Miyako and the Yaeyama’s to China. China countered with a proposal for a three way split: the northern islands, including Amami, to Meiji Japan, the main island of Okinawa to become independent under a restored Ryukyu/Okinawa king, and the southwest islands ceded to China.9 Both proposals agreed that the Miyako and Yaeyama island groups, that is to say the Okinawan islands closest to the Senkaku/Diaoyu’s, should be China’s. A treaty in line with the Chinese proposal was drawn up early in 1881 but not actually adopted because of opposition at high levels within the Chinese government.10 Then pre-eminent Chinese leader Li Hongjiang is said to have objected that “Ryukyu is neither Chinese nor Japanese territory, but a sovereign state.”11 When China, one hundred and thirty-two years later, protested that there had never been an agreement between the two countries on the status of Okinawa, and urging that it be the subject of discussions, Japan and Okinawa itself were shocked, but it was stating a simple historical fact.12
The unilateral assimilation to Japan of Ryukyu as Okinawa in 1879 in no way affected the status of the tiny Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. But just five years later, in 1884, a Japanese merchant, Koga Tatsushiro, settled on Senkaku. Initiating a business in collecting albatross feathers and tortoise shells, he submitted a claim through the newly established Okinawa prefecture to have them declared Japanese territory on grounds of being unclaimed and unoccupied.
In other words, Koga’s 1884 Senkaku application related to territory that was of such little import to Japan that it had been ready just years earlier to cede it (and much more) to China as part of a frontier grand bargain. The Meiji government in Tokyo delayed a decision on this matter for a full ten years, fearful of rousing China’s suspicions at a time when it worried that China might enjoy naval supremacy. That anxiety only eased following the major battles in which it decisively defeated Qing China in the Sino-Japanese War, whereupon the Japanese cabinet resolved in January 1895 to accept the Koga proposal. Japan annexed two of the islands (Uotsuri and Kuba), as part of Yaeyama County, Okinawa prefecture. It then (1896) leased four (Uotsuri, Kota Kojima, Minami Kojima, and Kuba) to Koga on a thirty year, fee-less, basis, adopted the name “Senkaku Islands” (in 1900) as a translation of the name “Pinnacle Rocks” found on British naval charts, and in 1926 converted the four island lease to a freehold grant to the Koga family.13 The fifth island, Taisho/Chiwei, was never part of the Koga family domain, but was simply claimed by the Government of Japan in 1921.
The Japanese annexation was a diplomatic secret, not published until many years later in the post-war compilations of Japanese diplomatic records, and the “markers” authorized by the 1895 cabinet resolution were not actually set up on the islands until May 1969.14
Through the Japanese empire in East Asia from 1895, Koga maintained his business, expanding it to employ perhaps as many as 248 people (99 households) by around 1910,15 catching, drying, processing, and canning fish, only withdrawing around 1940, abandoning the islands under the shadow of war.
Asia then had much greater questions to worry about, and Senkaku was of interest to no one. In the immediate post-war years Japan’s Foreign Ministry made only brief reference to them, dismissing them as “of scarcely any importance” (juyosei wa hotondo nai).16 China (Beijing)’s Foreign Ministry seems also to have had no interest in them. In a draft paper prepared in 1950, soon after the Chinese Communist party came to power, it referred simply to the islands by their Japanese name as “part of Okinawa.”17 Some doubt must remain on the status of this proposal until the actual document is published, but had it been implemented, and had Beijing actually been invited to San Francisco, such a stance might at least have informed the comprehensive discussions on territory that would have followed.
The question of Okinawa itself, raised by China in 2013 as still problematic and needing to be addressed in some arrangement between the two countries, was also seen as moot by US President Franklin Roosevelt. In 1943, he considered China’s claim to the Okinawan islands as a whole so strong that he twice asked Chinese president Chiang Kai-shek whether he would like to take possession of them in the eventual post-war settlement.18 Chiang, in a decision he is said to have later deeply regretted, declined.
In administering the Ryukyus from 1951 to 72, the US also assumed control of seas that included the Senkakus.19 However, in the negotiations over Okinawan reversion (1969-1972) it drew a line between the different sectors, transferring to Japan sovereignty over Ryukyu but only administrative control over Senkaku. Sovereignty was left unresolved, in implicit admission that the islands might be subject to competing claims. The United States has held strictly to that position to this day.
Why then, did the US split Senkaku from Ryukyu in 1972? Hara Kimie, Toyoshita Narahiko, and others, attribute the decision to Machiavellian US design. They believe it was explicit and deliberate. According to Hara, the US understood that the islands would function as a “wedge of containment” of China and that a “territorial dispute between Japan and China, especially over islands near Okinawa, would render the US military presence in Okinawa more acceptable to Japan.”20 According to Toyoshita, the US took a deliberately “vague” (aimai) attitude over territorial boundaries,21 sowing the seeds or sparks (hidane) of territorial conflict between China and Japan, and thereby ensuring Japan’s long-term dependence on the US and justifying the US base presence.22 For both, the implication is clear: the Senkaku/Diaoyu problem of today is the consequence of a US policy decision. Though conscious intent is necessarily difficult to prove, their hypothesis certainly offers a plausible explanation for the US shift of position.
The vague and unresolved “wedge/spark” formula of Senkaku/Diaoyu ownership, by ensuring ongoing friction in the Japan-China relationship also served as one of a set of keys locking Japan in place as a client or US-dependent state.23
The Senkaku/Diaoyu “problem” as it came to be known arose in the context of simultaneous developments at this time: the US shift of its position (marked most dramatically by the Nixon-led rapprochement with China), the sudden realization on all sides, following an ECAFE report on its 1968 investigation, that island ownership rights might carry potentially valuable resource rights to a sector of the East China Sea believed to be “the last remaining, richest, as yet unexploited depository of oil and natural gas,” the lodging of claims to the Senkaku/Diaoyu group by both Japan on the one hand and ROC and PRC on the other; and the stirring of a significant international overseas Chinese movement to support the Chinese demand.24

3. The Shelf, 1972-2010

Subsequently, Japan and China paid attention to Senkaku/Diaoyu on two key occasions, in 1972 and 1978. When Japanese Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei raised the question to Chinese premier Zhou Enlai on the former occasion, Zhou replied that the matter should be shelved as opening it would complicate and delay the normalization process.25 Six years later, in Japan to negotiate a Peace and Friendship Treaty, Deng Xiaoping reiterated this “shelving” formula, preferring to leave it to “the next generation” to find sufficient wisdom to resolve it.26 For roughly 40 years a modus vivendi held: though occasional landings (by Chinese activists from a Hong Kong base and by Japanese rightists sailing from ports in Okinawa) took place, the two governments tacitly cooperated to prevent them.27
Today, the Japanese Foreign Ministry adopts the improbable position that there was no such “shelving” arrangement.28 While it seems clear there was no formal diplomatic document to such effect, however, the exchanges recorded above were not trivial. What seems likely is that both sides stated their respective positions but chose to avoid formal negotiations which might have delayed general settlement.29
One prominent Japanese scholar now accuses the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of “inexcusable and outrageous” behaviour in having altered the Minutes of the Tanaka-Zhou meeting of 1972 and “burned and destroyed” those of the Sonoda-Deng meeting of 1978 lest either yield evidence prejudicial to the official case of undisputed Japanese sovereignty.30 In light of the recent revelation of the trashing of a vast cache of Foreign Ministry materials on the eve of Freedom of Information rules being introduced in 2001, Yabuki’s allegation cannot simply be dismissed.31
In two decisive steps, however, in 2010 and 2012, Japan moved to ensure that the shelf never be put back.32 In 2010, the Democratic Party of Japan’s government arrested the Chinese captain of a fishing ship in waters off Senkaku, insisting that there was “no room for doubt” that the islands were an integral part of Japanese territory, that there was no territorial dispute or diplomatic issue, and the Chinese vessel was simply in breach of Japanese law (interfering with officials conducting their duties). The fierce Chinese response caused Japan to back down and release the captain without pressing charges,33 but Japanese resolve hardened and China appears to have concluded that Japan had determined to set aside the “shelving” agreement. Mutual antagonism deepened steadily thereafter.
From China’s viewpoint, it was striking that Japan concentrated its diplomatic effort not on resolving a bilateral dispute over borders but on widening it to a security matter involving the United States, attaching its highest priority to securing an assurance from the US government that the islands were subject to Article 5 of the US-Japan Security Treaty, the clause that authorizes the US to protect Japan in the case of an armed attack “in territories under the administration of Japan.” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accepted that position in October 2010,34 and in due course, under strong Japanese prompting, it was entered into the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2013 and approved by the Senate on 29 November 2012.35
That is to say the US continued to acknowledge the “administration of Japan over the Senkaku Islands” but took no position on the question of sovereignty.36 Although much was made of this, there was “nothing new” in it.37 It means that, while the United States had no view on which country should own the islands, or even what they should be called, it was ready to go to war to defend Japan’s claim to them. It is a position that Henry Kissinger (in April 1971) described as “nonsense.”38
As the confrontation intensified, the left-right political divide in Japan dissolved into an “all Japan” front, with a broad national consensus supporting the Japanese official story of its Senkaku rights, protesting China’s threat to Japan’s sovereign territory and insisting there was no dispute and that the security alliance with the US covered defence of the islands against any China challenge.
If September 2010 marked “shelf down,” in April 2012 it was as if the shelf supports were removed too. Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro announced to a conservative American think-tank audience in Washington, D.C. that his city was negotiating to buy the three privately owned islets of Uotsuri, Kita Kojima and Minami Kojima,39 in order, he said, to clarify public, Japanese governmental jurisdiction and remove any possible challenge to their sovereignty by China or Taiwan. His announcement – coupled with his calculated abuse of China (or “Shina,” the insulting, wartime appellation Ishihara deliberately chose to employ) - stirred a diplomatic storm.
Ishihara’s Tokyo Metropolitan Government began distributing a poster featuring a photograph of the three islets that it was concerned with and the message calling for the “courage” to say, “Japan’s islands are Japan’s territory.”40 It also published an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal asking for US support for its island purchasing plan, pointedly noting that the islands were “of indispensable geostrategic importance to US force projection,”41 leaving no room for doubt as to the direction in which the United States should project its force.
The summer of 2012 in East Asia was hot. Rival groups of activists challenged each other with acts of bravado. Vessels under various flags and representing various claims over the islands made or attempted to make visits, ratcheting up tension.
On 7 July, 75th anniversary of Japan’s launch of all-out war on China, Prime Minister Noda adopted the Ishihara cause and declared the national government would buy and “nationalize” the islands. 42 Later that same month he declared his readiness to deploy the Self-Defence Forces to defend them, 43 and in September he formally purchased them (for 20.5 billion yen, or ca. $26 million) and “nationalized” them, 44 declaring to the UN General Assembly that the islands were “intrinsic Japanese territory,” over which there was no dispute and could be no negotiation.45
Protest demonstrations followed in Hong Kong and cities and towns across China – cars were overturned, Japanese restaurant windows smashed, Japanese goods trashed, and exchanges of tour groups, students, and businesses suspended.

4. Abe - “Taking Back”

Abe Shinzo campaigned for the December 2012 lower house election under the overall slogan of “taking back the country.” He pledged not to yield one millimetre of Japan’s “inherent” territory of Senkaku,46 a matter on which there was no dispute, no room for discussion or negotiation. He wrote:
“What is called for in the Senkaku vicinity is not negotiation but physical force incapable of being misunderstood.”47
Abe’s close friend, education minister Shimomura Hakubun, was equally forthright. He referred to Senkaku as having been “stolen away” (an odd formulation when effective control was plainly in Japan’s hands).
“Right now,” he went on, “Japan is not functioning as a nation. … The 67 years since the end of World War ll have been a history of Japan’s destruction. Now is our only chance to remake the country.”48
Shimomura, and presumably the Abe government, evidently believed that to stand up to and refuse to negotiate with China was to “remake” Japan. When former Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio challenged the government (while on a visit to Beijing), saying,
“But if you look at history, there is a dispute … If you keep saying, ‘There is no territorial dispute,’ you will never get an answer;”49
Abe’s Defense Minister, Onodera Itsunori, branded him a traitor (kokuzoku).50

The intransigent language of Japanese governments in 2013 was reminiscent of 1937, when Japan’s then leader, Konoe Fumimaro ruled out negotiations with Chin’s Chiang Kai-shek in the fateful months leading to full-scale war with China, and when the national media was similarly self-righteous and dismissive of China’s “unreasonableness” and “provocation.” 51 To China it looked as though Japan was actively collaborating in construction of a militarized Maritime Great Wall of China to block its access to the Pacific Ocean. In April Diaoyu was for the first time declared a “core interest,” and in May the People’s Daily added that the status of Okinawa itself had to be negotiated.
However, the high-risk associated with the policies and initiatives declared by the new Abe government evidently alarmed Washington. When US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Foreign Minister Kishida Fumio at their meeting in Washington in January 2013 that there was indeed a dispute and that Japan should sit down with China to negotiate it,52 it was in effect a rebuke. Although Abe subsequently moderated his language and policy, when he visited Washington in late February 2013, he was given neither dinner nor even a joint press conference, having to satisfy himself with a perfunctory lunch with the president. Furthermore, the Joint Communique made no reference to what he most sought: US backing for the Japanese claim to sovereignty over Senkaku/Diaoyu.53 Instead it was devoted entirely to a single issue, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, Washington’s primary agenda. By insisting that he “would not act rashly” over the dispute, Abe appeared to be striving to dampen fears that that was precisely how the White House suspected he might act.54 There was a plaintive note to the press conference at which he stood alone to declare the alliance strengthened. He was more at ease in front of the “Japan handlers” at the Center for Security and international Studies (CSIS) later that day declaring that “Japan is back,”55 by which he was understood to mean that its obedience to Washington directives on the construction of the new base at Henoko on Okinawa was unquestioned, the TPP accepted and base reorganization his greatest priority. Concern that Abe’s neo-nationalist and historical revisionist (rejecting “the narrative of imperial Japanese aggression and victimization of other Asians”) agenda might be “divisive” and “could hurt U.S. interests” spread in Washington (and throughout the US media).56

5. Intrinsic National Territory

The Japanese Senkaku claim rests on three fundamental assertions: that the islands, though annexed in 1895 just after China’s defeat in war and three months prior to the Treaty of Shimonoseki by which Taiwan and other islands were specifically ceded to Japan, were not “war spoils,” (or “stolen territories” in the words of the 1943 Cairo Agreement) but terra nullius, territory un-owned and unclaimed by any other country; that the Japanese occupation had been unchallenged between the act of annexation in 1895 and the publication of the ECAFE report in 1968, for at least 70 years; and that the islands were in some almost metaphysical sense Japan’s intrinsic, inalienable territory, what it called koyu no ryodo, a fundamental sector of the Ryukyu Islands. What for one purpose was abandoned and un-owned becomes for another Japan’s absolute and inalienable territory.
As to the first claim, based on terra nullius, such a claim is of dubious merit today, if only for the reason that it harkens back to the time when imperialist countries divided up the world at their will. It has in some cases, notably Australia, has been judicially overruled at the highest court level.57 It stretches credulity today to argue that the Japanese annexation was justified on the terra nullius principle and was therefore unrelated to the victory it had just seized over China in war and more broadly to the military and diplomatic advantage Japan enjoyed in the context of its rise and China’s decline as the wave of high imperialism washed across East Asia. From China’s viewpoint, a single line may be drawn from Ryukyu (1879), Senkaku (1895), Taiwan (1895), to Dongbei or “Manchuria” (1931). The People’s Daily in May 2013 drew precisely such a line.
The prefix “koyu no ryodo” (“intrinsic” or “inalienable” national territory), attaches now almost inevitably to any reference to “Senkaku Islands,” implying at least that they had long been “part” of the Ryukyu islands. Yet that is a dubious proposition since they were not part of Ryukyu’s “36 islands” in pre-modern times nor when the prefecture was established in 1879, but were tacked on to it 16 years later. It is also an ironic appellation for islands unknown in Japan till the late 19th century, then identified from British naval references, not declared Japanese till 1895 or named until 1900, for which neither name nor Japanese claim was revealed until 1952. Furthermore, what were annexed in 1895 were two islands, Uotsuri and Kuba. Two others were added in the leasehold arrangements established in 1896, and one more in 1921. When the Government of Japan “nationalized” the “Senkakus” in 2012, it acted in relation only to the three of them nominally in private hands. Two were excluded, including one that still remains in private hands. They are commonly known, even to the Japanese Coastguard, by their Chinese names, Huangwei and Chiwei, rather than their Japanese names, Kuba and Taisho, and have remained under uncontested US control – as a bombing range – since 1955 for Kuba and 1956 for Taisho with neither national nor metropolitan government in Japan ever complaining or seeking their return. Responding on behalf of the government in 2010 to a Diet question as to why no effort had been made to recover the islands, a spokesman said that the US side “had not indicated its intention to return them.” 58 In other words, Japan would not dream of seeking their return unless the US first indicated that it would be permissible to do so.
It means that, however outspoken and bold they may be to address China, and however adamant on Japan’s “inherent” ownership rights, courage deserts Japan’s leaders when facing the United States. Long-term US military occupations of what they claimed to be “intrinsic” territory simply do not matter. Whatever “koyu” means, it is not inconsistent with occupancy by another country, even if that other country should choose to bomb such islands to smithereens, so long as that “other country” is the United States.
The word “koyu” (Chinese: “guyou”) has no precise English translation and the concept is unknown in international law and foreign to discourse on national territory in much, if not most, of the world.59 The concept seems to have been invented in Japan around 1970, along with the term Hoppo Ryodo (Northern Territories) as part of the effort to reinforce linguistically Japan’s claim to what had been known as the Southern Kurile Islands.60 It was subsequently adopted to underline the Japanese claim to Takeshima (Dokdo) against South Korea, and then to the Senkaku islands (against China and Taiwan). However, in due course Japan’s rhetorical device to make its own case seem beyond dispute was adopted by all parties (including China and Korea), making the claims absolute and unnegotiable, and thereby obscuring one of the lessons of modern world history: that borders are rarely absolute or sacrosanct, as shown by the example of Germany sacrificing most of its Prussian heartland in 1945 but then emerging, reinforced, at the centre of Europe.
Furthermore, being a rhetorical rather than scientific term, the word “koyu” whose linguistic sense is “intrinsic” or “unequivocal,” in practice has been given an opposite meaning, territories that tended to be marginal and inferior, susceptible of being abandoned or traded away by the “mainland” if the interests of the “koyu hondo” (intrinsic mainland) core require it.61 Thus, Japan’s readiness (mentioned above) to trade the Miyako and Yaeyama island groups in 1880 as part of a frontier grand bargain. Likewise, too, when facing a survival crisis in the summer of 1945 the Japanese mission to sue for peace headed by Konoe Fumimaro (three times former Prime Minister), carried instructions issuing from the emperor himself to ensure the “preservation of the national polity” (i.e., the emperor-centred system), in which it was taken for granted that Japan would not only lose all its colonies but be reduced to “abandoning Okinawa, Ogasawara and Karafuto (Sakhalin) and having to be satisfied with a “koyu hondo” consisting just of the four islands of Honshu, Shikoku, Hokkaido and Kyushu.”62
The Miyako and the Yaeyama Islands could be traded away in 1880, and Okinawa itself could be sacrificed to protect the interests of “Japan proper” and save the national polity in 1945, showed that frontier territories, whether or not graced with the title of “intrinsic,” in fact ranked low in national policy. Nowhere ranked lower than Senkaku, the periphery of Japan’s periphery.
As to the second, there is a disingenuous quality to the Japanese position that China’s silence on the Japanese occupation of the islands until 1970 could be construed as consent. International law offered no system to which aggrieved colonial or semi-colonial countries could appeal and no such recourse was open to China - whether the Republic (whose capital moved from Nanjing to Taiwan in 1949) or the People’s Republic (from 1949) - until the time it was actually shown, when the withdrawal of US forces from Okinawa became imminent and focussed attention on what was and what was not “Okinawa” and to whom it should be “returned.” Normalcy” with Japan was not accomplished for China until 1972, which also happened to be the year that the US returned administrative authority over the Senkakus to Japan. From then, the Chinese protest was plain.

6. China’s claim

The Chinese claim (People’s Republic and Republic alike) to Diaoyu rests on history (the records of the Ming and Qing dynasties) and geography (the continental shelf and the deep gulf that sets the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands apart from the Ryukyu island chain). For both, the islands are an integral part of Taiwan’s territory and the fact that they were appropriated by Japan as part of the violent processes of the Sino-Japanese War, and should therefore have been returned to China under the Potsdam Agreement, is plain.

There are two further, increasingly important angles, rooted in contemporary geo-politics. One is the inequity in the hand China is bequeathed by its forbears because they did not establish a chain of island colonial and dependent territories like the other powers of the early modern and modern world and for that reason China gains virtually nothing from the huge distribution of global marine resources carried out under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) while the former colonial powers have been richly rewarded.
While global attention concentrates on the supposed grab for ocean and resources being carried out by China in the East and South China Seas, the far greater claims by the club of advanced countries, mostly former imperialist and colonial powers, have for the most part escaped attention. The great beneficiaries have been the US, UK, France, together with Australia, New Zealand and Russia, followed closely by Japan,63 whose claims as a maritime great power, with or without Senkaku/Diaoyu, grow rapidly in significance. Discoveries of methane hydrates, rare earths, and precious and industrial metals in significant quantities in its various ocean domains (including claimed but contested ones other than Senkaku/Diaoyu) make it a potential maritime superpower.64 In terms of ocean domains Japan ranks at No 9, controlling five times as great an ocean area as China, while China, at No. 31, ranks just between The Maldives and Somalia.65 China “played no part in the 19th and 20th century processes of dividing up the Pacific land territories and plays none now in dividing up its ocean.”66 The very fact that China is such a minor player in global terms in its claims on world oceans might reinforce its determination not to yield in the spaces, such as Senkaku/Diaoyu, where it does have a claim. As Peter Nolan notes (his reference here to South China Sea may be extended to East China Sea),
“The West’s preoccupation with Beijing’s involvement in the South China Sea contrasts sharply with the complete absence of discussion of the West’s vast exclusive economic zones in the region. The former imperial powers’ acquisition of control over vast marine territories and resources through UNCLOS has received negligible attention other than in specialist legal journals, yet it eclipses by some distance the area and resources that are in contention in the South China Sea.”67
Furthermore, the Chinese desire for “normalcy” as a global power, able to project its naval weight and to protect its maritime interests in the same way other powers take for granted, is seriously disadvantaged by lack of any undisputed access to the Pacific Ocean. From its perspective, the gateways to the Pacific lie in the north through the Soya Strait between Sakhalin and Hokkaido, Tsugaru Strait between Hokkaido and Honshu, and in the south through the Osumi Strait between Kagoshima and Tanegashima or the Miyako Strait between Okinawa (main) Island and Miyako Island. Further south lies the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines. Japan resents the Chinese Navy’s passage through such passages, notably the Osumi and Miyako Straits, but from the Chinese viewpoint, the long chain of Japanese controlled islands looks like nothing so much as a maritime great wall, and the moves to militarize the sectors till now neglected (especially between Okinawa Island and Taiwan) stir rising Chinese concern.
The spectrum of thinking in Chinese society may be much less monolithic than commonly assumed. Although anti-Japan sentiment in China is undoubtedly subject to some manipulation by government, distrust of Japan rests on an accumulation of unresolved grievances from the more than a century of modern history, and it is likely to be even stronger at the popular than at the government level.68
In general, China and Taiwan are united in their stance on Senkaku/Diaoyu matters, but it is to be noted that a Japan-Taiwan fisheries agreement was concluded in 2013 (after 17 years of talks) under which Taiwanese fishermen would have right to fish in certain specified waters adjacent to Senkaku/Diaoyu, if not in near coastal waters. It may be seen as a smart Japanese diplomatic gesture to split Beijing and Taipei, and thus to ease the pressure from hostile confrontation on all its frontiers. It presumably mans that the Taiwan coastguard will no longer confront Japanese forces with hostile intent. The deal made no reference to territorial issues but Beijing objected, and whether it will hold remains to be seen.69
Kyoto University’s Inoue Kiyoshi made the point forty years ago that, “Even though the [Senkaku] islands were not wrested from China under a treaty, they were grabbed from it by stealth, without treaty or negotiations, taking advantage of victory in war.”70 It is a judgement confirmed in 2012 from the opposite end of the ideological spectrum by The Economist, which wrote: “Whatever the legality of Japan’s claim to the islands, its roots lie in brutal empire-building.” 71

7. The Okinawan Perspective

Okinawans are aware in the depths of their bones that contest over sovereignty, in their regional waters, threatens them. The more the national security agenda as defined in Tokyo and Washington advances, the more insecure they become. War for the defence of Senkaku would be a “re-run of the battle of the Second World war, with us, Okinawans, the victims,” as Hiyane Teruo of the University of the Ryukyus puts it.72
Okinawan Senkaku thinking is characterized by five things: the claim of a long and close connection; the agency of civil society rather than government; the orientation towards an inclusive and regional cooperative rather than exclusive solution; the opposition to militarization (Okinawans in 1945 learned the bitter lesson that armies do not defend people, and are therefore disinclined to believe in any defence of the Senkaku that rests on militarizing them and embedding them in hostile confrontation with China); and (by contrast with the rest of Japan) a long historical memory of friendly relations with China.
Some now talk of an Okinawa-centred “livelihood zone” or (a proposal originating in Taiwan) of a “Minjian East Asia Forum.” Proponents of such agendas avoid the language of “inherent territory” or exclusive claims to oil or gas resources, prefer instead to talk of community, open borders and priority to the local over the nation state. For them, “livelihood zone” replaces “koyu no ryodo.” Naturally, they oppose military interventions and force-based positions. They are the antithesis of the Tokyo-centred “inherent” (national) territory. They believe the focus on “sovereignty” has to be widened to open a perspective of “spheres of border interaction,” “substantive spheres for neighbouring countries,” and a Northeast Asian “demilitarized zone.”73
The challenge is especially critical for Okinawa because it has focussed so much of its social energy over decades on the struggle against a militarization and base dependence, which the Japanese state and mainland media justify by reference to “China threat.” The Japanese national bureaucracy in Tokyo and its American patrons who pursue the agenda of Okinawan base reinforcement as part of military confrontation with China naturally hope that a sense of threatened “national” interest would serve to soften Okinawan opposition to the base agenda. The adoption of unanimous resolutions by the Okinawan Prefectural Assembly and the City Assemblies of Miyako and Ishigaki (geographically closest to Senkaku) affirming that the Senkaku islands did indeed “belong to Japan” and calling for Japan to be resolute (kizentaru) in defending them indicted that that “national security” considerations were indeed becoming important considerations in Okinawan base politics. When the People’s Daily in May 2013 suggested Okinawa’s status needed to be re-negotiated, the Okinawan people’s movement saw it as a blow, fearing that, whatever the Chinese intent, any such campaign would be bound to weaken their movement.74

8. Conclusion

Where the Japanese case for exclusive entitlement to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands is strong on a strict reading of international law, China’s is strong on grounds of history and geography. Its insistence that the frame for thinking of the problem include not just an antiseptic “international law” but the record of colonialism, imperialism, and war also has a moral quality.
There are no tribunals to adjudicate on such conflicting claims and, despite the assumption that there has to be a “right” answer, international law is no set of abstract and transcendent principles but an evolving expression of global power relations, reflecting at any one time the interests of dominant global powers.75 None of the state parties (Japan, China, Taiwan) is likely to submit to any formula that holds the possibility of a zero outcome. So, even though there are no residents of these islands with rights to be protected and in that sense resolution should not be so difficult, and despite the large economic interests shared by China and Japan, recourse to international law arbitration is highly unlikely.
Forty-five years after ECAFE’s report that raised the prospect of an oil and gas bonanza, no resource has been confirmed. The surrounding waters may or may not be rich in hydrocarbons but, even if they are, for one party to exploit them in the face of hostility of the other would be risky in the extreme. And if, for example Japan were to successfully to extract some resource, to attempt then to transport it across the Ryukyu Trench to Japanese markets would also be forbiddingly difficult and expensive, rather like transporting Middle Eastern oil over the Himalayas to Japan, while transport from the edge of the continental shelf to markets in eastern China on the other hand would present little problem.76 Quite apart from political considerations, the immense technical difficulty and risk involved therefore makes the cooperation of multiple governments and financial groups highly desirable.
For Japan, Senkaku/Diaoyu becomes a key element in the definition of a role in the region and the world: a regional state concentrating on building a cooperative order or a US client state cooperating in building a structure of containment of China, even while fearful the US might one day shift its Asian core interest from Japan to China – the trauma of the Nixon shocks remaining deep in the Japanese consciousness. The US “Client State” is bold towards China and craven towards the United States. To be able to set aside the deception and sophistry over “inherent” territory and absence of dispute that has been allowed to swallow rational discussion of the Senkaku/Diaoyu issue would require nothing short of a “spiritual revolution.”77
The election in Japan late in 2012 of a government of “Shinto” believers in the uniqueness of emperor-centred Japan who were denialists of Nanjing and “Comfort Women” and proponents of a stronger Japan, with a fresh constitution to warrant greater military build-up, could scarcely fail to ring alarm bells in China, and for that matter throughout Asia.78 It also caused concern in Washington, as the Congressional Research Service in May spelled out.

Three general points may be made.

First, it is hard to imagine any advance on the current, increasingly militarized confrontation over Senkaku/Diaoyu unless and until Japan concedes that there is a dispute. The longer it resists doing so, the greater the loss of face it stands to suffer when eventually, likely under US pressure, it finds that it has to.
Second, the issue is not simply territorial but deeply rooted in history. Japanese tend to forget; Chinese are unable to forget. The “Senkaku” issue today carries a “blowback” quality of unassuaged Chinese suspicion over Japan’s long neglected or insufficiently resolved war responsibility, the high-level denials of Nanjing, the periodic right-wing attempts to sanitize history texts, the refusal to accept formal legal responsibility for the victims of the Asia-wide “Comfort Women” slavery system, the periodic visits by Prime Ministers (notably Koizumi, 2001-2006) and Diet Members to Yasukuni.79 In April 2013, Deputy PM Aso and 168 members of the Lower House participated in he spring rites at Yasukuni.
Third, Japanese elites and the mass media alike seem to have lost the capacity to appreciate the Chinese position or to achieve a self-critical awareness of their own. While projecting a picture of China as threatening and “other,” they pay minimal attention either to the circumstances surrounding the Chinese claim to the islands or to the reasons for the general suspicion of Japan. They take for granted that Japan “owns” the islands and blame it for the crisis over them, and they have no sense of responsibility for the trashing of the “freeze” agreements of 1972 and 1978 (whose existence, for the most part, they simply deny).80 Japan’s claim is rhetorical, ambiguous, manipulative, and hostile to compromise or negotiation, yet few doubt that the Japanese position is “fundamentally solid and quite tenable under existing international law.”81
However superficially intractable, however, the kind of regional, East China Sea way forward, alluded to earlier by Fukuda Yasuo, Hu Jintao, Hatoyama Yukio, and others, need not be so difficult and indeed could be fairly straightforward, at least in principle. Since the prospect of a resolution to the sovereignty question is minimal, best, therefore, to set it aside, to revert in effect to the “shelving” agreement of 1972-2010 but to combine that with active cooperation around and perhaps under the islands. Agreements for sharing resources, sharing responsibility for the protection of nature (with possible UN World Heritage status), and for shared policing and administration of the islands and their seas could be negotiated. Cooperative arrangements for fisheries and resource extraction had been put in place in parts of this sea before the crisis that erupted in 2010 froze most of its mechanisms, and could be reinstated and expanded. China scholar Yabuki makes a simple, radical proposal,
“For instance, there could be a ‘one island, two governments’ response to ‘Senkaku-Diaoyu,’ wherein Japan might administer the islands on odd days and China on even days. What is required is the creation of this type of a ‘new consensus’ based on shared administration, the maintenance of peace and order, and fair sharing of resources.”82
It is a formula unlikely to recommend itself to either side at this moment, but it, or something like it, may in fact be the only realistic way forward. Only such a perspective, relativizing the nation state and building a structure of cooperation around and across national borders, offers a prospect of resolving the Senkaku/Diaoyu problem, transcending the San Francisco system and signalling the birth of a Pax Asia.


Gavan McCormack is a coordinator of The Asia-Pacific Journal, emeritus professor of Australian National University, and co-author, with Satoko Oka Norimatsu, of Resistant Islands – Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States, Rowman and Littlefield and Japanese edition from Horitsu Bunkasha, 2013 (Korean and Chinese editions forthcoming). Much of his work may also be consulted through the index to The Asia-Pacific Journal.

Recommended citation: Gavan McCormack, "Much Ado over Small Islands: The Sino-Japanese Confrontation over Senkaku/Diaoyu," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 11, Issue 21, No. 3, May 27, 2013.

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1 This is a slightly revised version of a paper first delivered as keynote address to “The China-Japan Dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands Symposium,” at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on 19 April 2013, and presented subsequently during April–May 2013 at Cornell University, The School of Advanced and International Studies at Reischauer Institute in Washington D.C., Free University of Berlin, University of Vienna and the Free University of Tbilisi, Georgia. I am grateful for the comments and criticism received on these various occasions.
2 Jon Halliday and Gavan McCormack, Japanese Imperialism Today: Co-prosperity in Greater East Asia, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1973, pp. 66-7; Gavan McCormack and Satoko Oka Norimatsu, Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States, Rowman and Littlefield, 2012, pp. 209-222.
3 1990 and 2030 from Wall Street Journal Online; 2060 from OECD. Details in Gavan McCormack, “Zokkoku mondai,” in Kimura Akira and Magosaki Ukeru, eds, Owaranai , Kyoto, Horitsu bunkasha, 2013, pp. 18-38, at p. 18.
4 “China, Japan sign joint statement on promoting strategic, mutually beneficial ties,” China View, 8 May 2008.
5 Sachiko Sakamaki, “China’s Hu, Japan’s Hatoyama agree to extend thaw in relations,” Bloomberg, 22 September, 2009
6 Yamada Yoshihiko, Nihon no kokkyo, Shincho shinsho, No 107, 2005, p. 123.
7 Guo Rongxing, “Territorial disputes and seabed petroleum exploration,” The Brookings Institution, Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies, September 2010, p. 23.
8 Uemura Hideaki, “Ryodo mondai to rekishi ninshiki,” Dai 11 kai “Rekishi ninshiki to Higashi Ajia no heiwa’ Foramu Tokyo kaigi, 24-26 November 2012. Hokoku shiryoshu, pp. 87-90.
9 Hane Jiro, “Senkaku mondai ni naizai suru horiteki mujun,” Sekai, November 2012, pp. 112-119, at p. 116-118.
10 Uemura, op. cit., p. 89. See also Gavan McCormack and Satoko Oka Norimatsu, Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States, Rowman and Littlefield, 2012, p. 5
11 Quoted in Utsumi Shozo, “Okinawa mushi, gyogyo kyotei de mo,” Okinawa taimusu, 17 May 2013,
12 See the series on Senkaku/Diaoyu published in Renmin rihbao, 8-10 May 2013, especially part 3, “Ma-guan joyaku to Diaoyudao mondai o ronjiru,” Renmin rihbao (Japanese edition), 10 May 2013.
13 See Ivy Lee and Fang Ming, “Deconstructing Japan’s claim of sovereignty over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands,” p. 7. The Asia-Pacific Journal - Japan Focus, 31 December 2012.
14 Lee and Ming, p. 7.
15 Hosaka Masayasu and Togo Kazuhiko, Nihon no ryodo mondai, Kakugawa shoten, 2012, p. 119.
16 Foreign Office, Japanese Government, Minor Islands Adjacent to Japan Proper, Part 2, Ryukyu and other Islands, March 1947, see discussion and cover photograph in Wada Haruki, Ryodo mondai o do kaiketsu suru ka, Heibonsha shinsho, 2012, pp. 201ff
17 “‘Senkaku wa Ryukyu no ichibu’ Chugoku, 76 nenkan igi tonaezu – sekiyu shigen de ryoyu shucho,” Jiji, 20 December 2012.Also “Chugoku, ‘Senkaku wa Ryukyu no ichibu’ to ninshiki, 50 nen no gaiko bunsho de,” Asahi shimbun, 21 December 2012.
18 Ishii Akira, “Chugoku no Ryukyu/Okinawa seisaku,” Kyokai kenkyu, No 1, 2010, pp.71-96, at p. 79. See also Endo Homare, “Chugoku kyosanto mo shitte ita, Sho Kaiseki ga ‘Senkaku ryoyu o kotowatta’ jijitsu,” Nihon keizai shinbun, 14 February 2013. (link)
19 Edict No 27 of the (US controlled) Government of the Ryukyus in 1953 formally defined the geographic limits of the US Trust territory to include the Senkaku’s. That unilateral act served to extend the bounds of the Ryukyus unilaterally and illegally, according to China. (Renmin rihbao, 10 May 2013).
20 Kimie Hara, “The post-war Japanese peace treaties and China’s ocean frontier problems,” American Journal of Chinese Studies, vol. 11, No. 1, April 2004, pp. 1-24, at p. 23. And see Kimie Hara, Cold War Frontiers in the Asia-Pacific: Divided Territories in the San Francisco System (Abingdon: Taylor and Francis, 2006), especially chapter 7, “The Ryukyus: Okinawa and the Senkaku/Diaoyu disputes.”
21 Toyoshita, Senkaku mondai to wa nani ka, p. 52.
22 Toyoshita Narahiko, “Aete hidane nokosu Bei senryaku,” Okinawa taimusu, 12 August 2012.
23 See my Client State: Japan in the American Embrace, New York and London, Verso, 2007, and “Zokkoku mondai,” op. cit.
24 For my view of the problem as of this time, see Jon Halliday and Gavan McCormack, Japanese Imperialism Today –Co-prosperity in Greater East Asia, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1973, pp. 62-67.
25 “Senkaku mondai o do omou ka,” or “What do you think about the Senkaku islands?” The Japan-China Summit meeting between Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka and Premier Zhou Enlai on September 27, 1972” reproduced in Lee and Ming, op. cit. p. 36. See discussion in Toyoshita Narahiko, “Senkaku mondai” to wa nani ka, Iwanami gendai bunko, 2012, pp. 48-50, also Yabuki Susumu.
26 See the documents reproduced at Lee and Ming, op. cit and discussion in Tabata Mitsunaga, “Ryoyuken mondai o meguru rekishiteki jujitsu,” Sekai, December 2012, pp. 104-113. Also McCormack and Norimatsu, Resistant Islands, pp. 216-7.
27 See Lee and Ming, p. 11.
28 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “The Senkaku Islands,” March 2013.
29 Tabata Mitsunaga, “Ryoyuken mondai o meguru rekishiteki jijitsu,” Sekai, December 2012, pp.104-113, at .pp. 107-8
30 Susumu Yabuki, “Interview: China-watcher Yabuki says Senkakus are a diplomatic mistake by Japan,” Asahi shimbun, 12 December 2012. Yabuki makes his strongest accusations in his subsequent interview: Yabuki Susumu, interviewed by Mark Selden, “China-Japan territorial conflicts and the US-Japan-China relations in historical and contemporary perspective,” The Asia-Pacific Journal – Japan Focus, 4 March 2013.
31 McCormack and Norimatsu, pp. 57-58.
32 There are those who now argue that it was China, first in 1992, then in 2008 and 2012, that pulled down the shelf. I am not persuaded, however, and the legal and administrative measures referred to did not lead in practice to any change in China’s policies. (See Togo Kazuhiko, “The Senkakus Issue,” NBR Japan Forum, 15 April 2013.))
33 Details in McCormack and Norimatsu, pp. 211-214.
34 “Joint Press availability,” Department of State, 27 October 2010.
35 Ben Dolven, Shirley A. Kan, Mark E. Manyin, Maritime Territorial Disputes in East Asia: Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service, January 23, 2013, p. 16.
36 “China condemns Senkaku amendment to US-Japan security treaty,” Japan Times, 4 December 2012.
37 Yabuki, interviewed by Mark Selden, p. 14-18.
38 Lee and Ming, p. 2
39 Ishihara Shintaro, “The US-Japan alliance and the debate over Japan’s role in Asia,” lecture to Heritage Foundation, Washington D.C, 16 April 2012.
40 Mizuho Aoki, “Poster boasts metro plan to buy Senkakus,” Japan Times, 14 July 2012.
41 “To the American people, from Tokyo, Japan,” Wall Street Journal, 27 July 2012. And see Kyodo, “Ad in Wall Street Journal seeks US support for Senkaku purchase plan,” Japan Times, 29 July 2012.
42 Kyodo, “Government to make bid for Senkakus,” Japan Times, 8 July 2012.
43 In the Diet on 26 July 2012. See Takahashi Kosuke, “China, Japan stretch peace pacts,” Asia Times Online, 7 August 2012.
44 Toyoshita, Senkaku mondai to wa nani ka, pp. 72-3.
45 Lee and Ming, pp. 4-5.
46 Meeting Deputy Secretary of State William Burns on 15 October, quoted in Tabata, p. 113,
47 「この問題に外交交渉の余地などありません。尖閣海域で求められているのは、交渉ではなく、誤解を恐れずにいえば物理的な力です」Abe Shinzo, “Atarashii kuni e,” Bungei shunju, January 2013, 124-133, at p. 130. China’s riposte came months later when Major-General Luo Yuan declared that it would depend for resolution of the Diaoyu problem on “the elevation of our comprehensive national strength,” to which end it would proceed with mobilizing its forces into Diaoyu waters, so that “when needed we can turn the three major fleets into a fist to draw out the [Japanese] blade.” (“Viewpoint: National strength still to be raised to solve Diaoyu Islands issue,” China Military Online, 17 May 2013. )
48 APA Group, Big Talk 257 - Japan Must Take Another Look at All Facets of its Modern History, Including the Kono Statement, Murayama Statement, and Tokyo Trials Historical Viewpoint. Hakubun Shimomura interviewed by Toshio Motoya, link.
49 Kyodo, “From Beijing, Hatoyama tells Tokyo to admit row,” Japan Times, 18 January 2012.
50 AFP-Jiji, “China hype: Hatoyama war regrets,” Japan Times, 19 January 2013.
51 Abe, meeting on 15 October with Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, quoted in Tabata Mitsunaga, “Ryoyuken mondai o meguru rekishiteki jijitsu,” Sekai, December 2012, p. 113.
52 “Remarks With Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida After Their Meeting,” Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State, Washington, DC, January 18, 2013. For Satoko Oka Norimatsu’s analysis of the media reporting of this meeting, see “Kurinton Kishioda kaiken hodo: masumedia no aorini damasarenai yo ni,” Peace Philosophy, 20 January 2013,
53 “Joint Statement by the United States and Japan,” Washington, 22 February 2013.
54 Jackie Calmes, “Japan and United States reaffirm their close ties,” New York Times, 22 February 2013.
55 Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, “Japan is back,” Speech on 22 February 2013 to CSIS, Washington,
56 For US national and media thinking on the evolution of the “Japan question” under the Abe government, see Emma Chanlett-Avery, Mark E. Manyin, William H. Cooper, Ian E. Rinehart, Japan-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service, May 1, 2013. ( 7-5700). And see Takeuchi Yoichi, “Shusho rekishi ninshiki Bei ga kenen ‘Higashi Ajia konran’ ‘Beikkoku kokueki gaisuru,” Tokyo shimbun, 9 May 2013.
57 “Eddie Mabo vs Queensland,” 1988 and 1992 in the High Court of Australia.
58 Toyoshita, “Senkaku konyu,” p. 42.
59 For discussion of this point, Toyoshita Narahiko, “‘Senkaku konyu’ mondai no kansei,” Sekai, August 2012, pp. 41-49 (later resumed in his book, Senkaku mondai to wa nani ka, Iwanami gendai bunko, 2012.)
60 Wada Haruki, Ryodo mondai o do kaiketsu suru ka, Heibonsha shinsho, 2012, pp 23-33.
61 Toyoshita, pp. 44-45.
62 Yabe Teiji, Konoe Fumimaro, 2 vols, Kobundo, 1952, vol 2, pp. 559-560.
63 See Peter Nolan, “Imperial Archipelagos: China, Western Colonialism and the Law of the Sea,” New Left Review, 80, March-April 2013, pp. 77-95, and with specific reference to Japan, my “Troubled seas: Japan’s Pacific and East China Sea Domains (and claims,)” The Asia-Pacific Journal – Japan Focus, 3 September 2012.
64 See inter alia, “Deep-sea mud proves rich in rare earths, but remote deposits hard to extract,” Yomiuri shimbun, 22 March 2013, and “Dai kibo kaitei kotoko ‘shigen rikken’ mo yum de wa nai,” editorial, Ryukyu shimpo, 2 April 2013.
65 Gavan McCormack, “Troubled seas: Japan’s Pacific and East China Sea domains (and claims),” The Asia-Pacific Journal – Japan Focus, 3 September 2012.
66 ibid.
67 Nolan, cit, pp. 94-95.
68 In the view of Japan scholar Sun Ge (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), “Ganzen ni semaru Okinawa minshu no sugata,” Gendai shiso, December 2012, pp, 158-165, at p. 164.
69 Alex Calvo, “Adult wisdom: The Japan-Taiwan fisheries deal,” Shingetsu News Agency, 19 April 2013.
70 Inoue, p. 123.
71 “China and Japan: Could Asia really go to war over these?” The Economist, 22 September 2012.
72 Hiyane Teruo, emeritus professor of the University of the Ryukyus, quoted in “Senkaku kaiketsu e kennai kenkyusha ra shido,” Ryukyu shimpo, 13 January 2013.
73 “Facing history, resolving disputes, working towards peace in East Asia: A Statement by Minjian East Asia Forum,” revised, 12 November 2012.  And see Wakabayashi Chiyo, “Futatabi ‘basho’ o sozo suru,” Gendai shiso, December 2012, pp. 78-89.
74 “Jinmin nippo – rekishi no shiiteki kyokkai da,” editorial, Ryukyu shimpo, 12 May 2013.
75 Yabuki, interviewed by Mark Selden, p. 13.
76 Guo Rongxing, pp. 9, 25-6.
77 Wada, Ryodo mondai o do kaiketsu suru ka, p. 19.
78 See my “Abe Days are Here Again - Japan in the World," The Asia-Pacific Journal – Japan Focus, 24 December 2012. 
79 Zhang Ning, “‘Diaoyudao’ no haigo no Chugoku no shisoteki bunki,” Gendai shiso, December 2012, pp. 104-112, at p.106.
80 For the Congressional Research Service discussion, Maritime Territorial Disputes in East Asia: Issues for Congress, p. 16 (fn. 24)
81 Togo Kazuhiko, “Japan’s territorial problem: the Northern Territories, Takeshima, and the Senkaku islands,” The National Bureau of Asian Research, Commentary, 8 May 2012. And see Togo and Kosaka, op. cit.
82 Yabuki, interviewed by Selden, p. 4.





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