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Tug of War Contextualizing Sino-American Relations in the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands Dispute Aries Joseph A.

Hegina The stage has been set for the inevitable clash of the world powers. The recent resurgence of the territorial dispute with regard to the Senkaku (Diaoyu in Chinese) Islands represents not only the fallout of an amicable relationship between China and Japan but most importantly, it also exposes the volatility of relations between China and United States as the latter remains to be the primary ally of Japan. This paper will utilize the Realist perspective in gauging the implications of the Senkaku/ Diaoyu Islands dispute in the Sino-American relationship. It aims to contextualize the interplay of economic, security and political interests of the two countries in tackling the dispute and how the said factors affect the volatile relationship of the two most dominant world powers. Main Content Setting the Stage: The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands and the recent flare-up of the dispute The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands are a cluster of eight islets located on the East China Sea. The islets are uninhabited and are under the jurisdiction of Okinawa Prefecture. Japan and China have both signified their interest in claiming the islets. For Japan, the Senkakus (or Senkaku Retto) are an inherent territory of Japan as proven by historical accounts and international law. On the other hand, the Senkakus are called Diaoyutai which means fishing platform or Diaoyu Dao which translates to fishing islands by the Chinese as these islets are said to be the traditional fishing grounds of Chinese fishermen since the discovery of the islands in the 14th century. During the 1960s, oil and natural gas deposits were discovered near the disputed islands. (Lee and Ming, 2012) The recent flare-up of the dispute is said to have been triggered when Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara announced that he would purchase three Senkaku islets from their private owner in April 2012. Ishihara, a known right-wing nationalist personality, intended to construct facilities on the islets as a show of force and control of Japan and was able to raise 1.5 billion yen for the purchase of the three islets. To deter other nationalists to imitate Ishiharas plan, then Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced on September 2012 his plan to re-nationalize the islets. This move, however, was seen by the Chinese government as an attempt to steal the islets from China and that Beijing felt that it had lost face in the issue. (Kotani, 2013) Clash of Interests: Investigating the claims of the two factions on the Senkaku/Daioyu islands

The Japanese governments claim on the islands is both hinged on historical accounts and on the grounds of international law. According to its official position entitled "Basic View on the Sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands, the Japanese government posits four premises on the inherent sovereignty of Japan on the islands: first, The Senkaku Islands were not renounced by Japan under Article II of the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1952 and that the islands were included as part of Nansei Shoto Islands under the administration of the United States which were later ceded to Japan in 1972 thru the Okinawa Reversion Treaty; second, the said island group was found to be terra nuillus (uninhabited land) through the investigations led by the Japanese government dating from 1895; third, no trace of control by the Chinese Qing dynasty was found on the islands and that these islands were not part of the Taiwan and the Pescadores Islands which were ceded to Japan from China through the adoption of Article 2 of the Treaty of Peace at Shimoneski in 1895; and lastly, the oil and natural gas deposits discovered by a United Nations agency triggered the assertions of China and Taiwan. (Basic View on the Sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands, 2013) On the other hand, Chinas claim on the Senkaku/Daioyu Islands rests primarily on historical accounts, legal standing and allegations of fraud and deception concocted by Japan and the United States. In the official paper released by the Chinese government entitled Diaoyu Dao, an Inherent Territory of China, China posits its claim on the islands through the following assertions: first, that Diaoyu Dao was discovered, named and exploited by China as evidenced by Chinese and foreign maps and as recorded in a book dating from the Ming Dynasty; second, Japan instigated covert moves to invade the islands and deceptively forced China into signing the Treaty of Shimoneski; third, that all the agreements signed by Japan with the United States are invalid as these violate the Cairo and Potsdam declarations and lastly, it claims that it has done moves to assume sovereignty for the islands. (Diaoyu Dao, an Inherent Territory of China, 2013) Analysis and Conclusion The dispute between the two powers and its recent developments unmasks the vested interests of each state. Economic, security and political facets overlap in this conflict as the two factions, USJapan and China, continue to fight over the disputed islands. The economic aspect of the issue ascertains that beside the aforementioned oil and gas deposits that were found on 1968, the 40,000 square kilometers of exclusive economic zone which includes all the natural resources under its jurisdiction, remains to be the prize for the feuding factions. (Pan, 2012) These gains from the islands are of great interest to the countries involved as they are top three world economies and that the oil and natural gas deposits in the islands would aid in sustaining their economic processes. In terms of security, the islands are of main geopolitical importance to the one who would gain sovereignty on the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. According to Pan, (2007) should either China or Japan legally secured the sovereignty over the islands, they would grant their owner an advantage in military security with a prolonged and enlarged frontier, putting the other side into a

disadvantaged position. Such is the case considering that the islands are located at the heart of the East China Sea notwithstanding the fact that it is near the states of China, Taiwan and Japan. In the event that Beijing would acquire the islands, China is placed on a very favorable position in case of attacking the United States as the islands are near to the US naval bases situated in Okinawa. Also, according to Kotani (2013), due to the insufficient radar networks and surveillance aircrafts of the Peoples Liberation Army of China in the East China Sea, gaining the Senkaku Islands would address this insufficiency and will step up the surveillance system in this area. Also, according to Kawamura (as cited in Yoshida, 2012) that the Senkakus will be able to provide a safe haven for its nuclear powered submarines. Kawamura furthered that, seizing the Senkakus just 190 km east of Taiwan and close to the northern gateway to the South China Sea is indispensable. With respect to the political dimension of the dispute, the US-Japan move to deflect the assertion of China on the Senkakus is a manifestation of the Asia Pivot strategy of the current US administration. More importantly, this is a reflection of the decades-old containment strategy espoused by the US to counter the growing hegemonic capability of China as evidenced on NSC 68 and PPS 29 documents. The 2011 report of the US-China economic and security review commission stipulates that Beijing espouses an Area Control Military Strategy which posits the following: (a) It emphasizes degrading a superior opponents technological advances; (b) It stresses striking first in order to seize the initiative; and (c) it centers on controlling Chinas periphery, especially the western Pacific Ocean. (USESRC, 2011) Yet, another factor that could not be ignored is the role of the United States in the dispute as the primary ally of Japan in the Asia-Pacific region. With the rebalancing of interests and the Asia Pivot strategy of the Obama administration, Washington could not feign ignorance on this territorial dispute. The affirmation of Washington to the Article 5 of the US-Japan Mutual Security Treaty which posits that it would act upon any attacks on the territories of Japan while remaining mum on calling for the two parties to act on the peaceful resolution of the conflict is a stark reflection of Washingtons bias to Japan. (Harner, 2012) The siding of the US to Japans aid through its deliberate neutrality strategy on the issue is detrimental to the Sino-American relations. For one, as the US continues to keep mum on the sovereignty of the Senkakus, it only affirms that it sides with Japan on the issue. Along with the affirmation of the 1960 US-Japan Mutual Security Treaty, US only exacerbate the fallout of its relations with China. Using the Realist perspective, the US-China relations in the context of the Senkaku dispute is but a manifestation of preserving interests of the states involved. More importantly, the balance of power tilting in favor of the US hegemon and the preservation of the US polarity remains to be the key policy of the Washington-based government. China, on the other hand, with its renewed economic and military strength, aims to annex territories that are of vital interest to the state. Another facet that should be investigated is that there is a possibility of a war if this is not resolved so as to maintain the US hegemonic status quo.

Thus, in this tug of war of powers, their national interests play a vital role in exerting more pressure in subjugating the other side. Bibliography

2011 Report to Congress of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission. November 2011


View on the Sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands. (2013) Retrieved from http://www.cfr.org/japan/official-japanese-position-diaoyu-dao-senkaku-islands/p30252


Dao, an Inherent Territory of China. (2013). Retrieved http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2012-09/25/c_131872152.htm


Harner, Stephen. (2012). Is the U.S. Committed to Defend the Senkakus? Text of Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Treaty. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/stephenharner/2012/09/23/is-the-u-s-committed-to-defend -the-senkakus-text-of-article-5-of-the-u-s-japan-treaty

Lee, Ivy and Fang Ming. (2012). Deconstructing Japans Claim of Sovereignty over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. The Asia Pacific Journal.

Kotani, Tetsuo. (2013). The Senkaku Islands and the U.S.-Japan Alliance: Future Implications for the Asia-Pacific. Project 2049 Institute. Pan, Zhongqi. (2007). Sino-Japanese Dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands: The Pending Controversy from the Chinese Perspective. Journal of Chinese Political Science. Yoshida, Reiji. (2012). Beijings Senkaku goal: Sub safe haven in South China Sea- Quest for isles a strategic aim: former MSDF rear admiral. The Japan Times.