Friday, September 17, 2010

Japan and China High Bet on the Senkaku - Diaoyu

A test of strategic will for the two Asian powers

Angry nationalists in Taiwan

As a Chinese good friend of mine wrote me the other day, "Hey Joel, it's simple, Chinese like to brag". And that could be the end of it! Now has Naoto Kan the ex Activist turned into a "Pragmatic Reformer" any diplomatic solution? The territorial quarrel is getting so nasty that Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will not be holding a bilateral meeting in New York, during the United Nations General Assembly. Now, guess who is happy about it?

The disputed uninhabited islands chain are known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. The islets are under Japan's administrative control since 1972, Tokyo says. Also called Pinnacle Islands, these are a group of small blue water islands also claimed by both Taiwan and the People's Republic of China as part of Taiwan Province, Toucheng Township in Yilan County.

They are often the source of diplomatic friction. 20th of February 2009: two Chinese PLAAF J-10A fighters intercepted three Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-2 fighters flying close to the Senkaku Islands, and locked their missiles onto the Japanese fighters. After a three minute stand-off, the Japanese fighters returned to Japanese air space. The Japanese government stated it was an act of provocation.

Then on 7th of September 2010: A Chinese fishing trawler collided with two Japanese Coast Guard patrol boats in disputed waters near the islands. The collisions occurred after the Japanese Coast Guard ordered the trawler to stop fishing. After the collisions, Japanese sailors boarded the Chinese vessel and arrested the captain.

But it is the first time that an arrest of a fishing ship captain has been made by Japan after a brawl with Japan Coast Guards, a first arrest on on a foreign fishing boat in the territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands. The trawler's captain was arrested Sept. 8 on suspicion of obstructing public duties of coast guard personnel, which reportedly occurred after the coast guard tried to get the fishing boat to vacate Japanese waters.

fishing and gas reserves

Japan rehearsal for bigger confrontations?

Japan claims that after World War II, the islands came under the United States occupation of Okinawa. During this period, the United States and the Ryūkyū Government administered the islands and the US Navy even used Kuba-jima and Taisho-jima as maneuver areas. In 1972, sovereignty over Okinawa, and arguably the surrounding islands, was handed back to Japan as part of the termination of United States Military Government jurisdiction over the Article 3 territories of the Treaty of San Francisco.

"Who is right or wrong or who exercises legal authority in dispute waters are now clarified as secondary. After the Chinese assess Japan's resistance, backed by South Korea, the issue will be settled. Chinese bullying will not work with Japan or South Korea." An analyst source wrote on a blog.

The issue is how to show enough capability to draw a line

In the past, Japan has objected to Chinese development of natural gas resources in the East China Sea in an area where the two countries Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) claims overlap. Japan claims a division of the EEZ on the median line between the countries' coastlines. About 40,000 square kilometers of EEZ are in dispute.

China and Japan both claim 200 nautical miles EEZ rights, but the East China Sea width is only 360 nautical miles. China claims an EEZ extending to the eastern end of the Chinese continental shelf which goes deep into the Japanese EEZ beyond the median line.

The specific development in dispute is China's drilling in the Chunxiao field, which is three miles west of the median line, but which Japan contends may be tapping natural gas reserves which extend past the median line. China has energy needs: The Chunxiao gas field in Xihu Sag in the East China Sea is estimated to hold reserves of more than 1.6 tcf of natural gas and is expected to become a major producer in the next ten years.

Chinese activists in Beijing near
Japanese embassy: "Show the flag"

Empty Battle of words

Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada (until he quits to take the number 2 job at the ruling party DPJ on Friday) has urged China to stay level-headed.

Okada: "China has been continuously doing things like (canceling) a senior official's trip to Japan or calling off (bilateral) exchanges," Okada said during a news conference earlier this week. "But the incident is not directly connected and I think it is important to remain calm."

According to Yoshimitsu Nishikawa quoted by Japan Times today, (Nishikawa is a professor of international relations at Toyo University): "It is a matter of course that China is angry over the arrest of the fishing boat captain because by Chinese law the Senkaku islets belong to Beijing and not Tokyo."

According to Japan Coast Guard Commandant Hisayasu Suzuki, the coast guard has already conducted 21 inspections of foreign ships that have entered Japan's territorial waters since early 2010.

And last, China has its own words on the question:
in Chinese language.

Sources: Mainichi, Asahi, J Times, Wiki, Action committee Taiwan, Reporter's Notes

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