HOW FAR WILL THE DRAGON SWIM?
THE SENKAKU /DINOYU ISLANDS DISPUTE:
A Dangerous Time is Upon Us.
|Traditional Motorized Chinese Fishing Boat
Editorial Note: 2/15/2015 This post was first published when the Japanese government purchased the Senkaku / Dinou islands from their private Japanese owners. The purchase was made to stop development plans that would have incensed the Chinese who were already disputing ownership. Instead of having the calming effect that the Japanese government intended it ignited a flurry of anti Japanese activity on the part of Beijing. The controversy has only worsened over time. We republish this post as background material for those following the development of this controversy.
Fishing season has opened in the more northerly reaches of the Sea of China. Protests over the purchase of the disputed Senkaku / Dinou Islands by Japan, from a Japanese private owner making them state property were severe in China. Japanese businesses were damaged and some forced to close and at least a few instances of physical attack upon Japanese citizens occurred. In China few protests erupt without government approval. But it appears that the Chinese Government is having second thoughts as anti Japanese social media messages are being blocked and police are starting to act to suppress protests. The Chinese reaction to the Japanese purchase never made sense if the Chinese were ever really interested in peaceful negotiation over the islands. The Chinese couldn't have missed this point since it was all over the Japanese press.
THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT PURCHASED THE ISLANDS FROM THE PRIVATE OWNER TO PUT AN END TO PLANS BY LOCAL GOVERNMENT TO DEVELOP THE ISLANDS. INTERNATIONAL LAW PRESENTLY RECOGNIZES JAPAN AS THE LEGITIMATE SOVEREIGN OVER THE ISLANDS. IF THE ISLANDS WERE DEVELOPED AND INHABITED BY THE JAPANESE "RETURN" OF THE ISLANDS TO CHINA WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE. NOTHING SO CEMENTS CLAIMS OF SOVEREIGNTY AS "EFFECTIVE SETTLEMENT". SINCE THE SOVEREIGNTY OF JAPAN OVER THE ISLANDS IS CURRENTLY INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNIZED JAPAN HAD TO RECOGNIZE THE DEED OF THE PRIVATE OWNER AND IF THE ISLANDS REMAINED IN PRIVATE HANDS THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT WOULD NOT BE IN MUCH OF A POSITION TO STOP DEVELOPMENT/SETTLEMENT ; BUT WOULD BE ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED TO DEFEND ITS' INHABITED RECOGNIZED TERRITORY. WITH THE ISLAND AS GOVERNMENT PROPERTY THE SITUATION IS MUCH MORE OPEN TO BARGAINING WITH NEITHER SIDE LOSING MUCH FACE IF SOME SORT OF COMPROMISE IS REACHED.
The disputed islands have rarely been inhabited but sovereignty has shifted between Japan and China over the centuries but it has rested with Japan since about 1895 except for a brief period of doubt around the end of World War II. After the War formal international instruments confirmed Japanese sovereignty. China claims that due to civil unrest mostly caused by the Japanese invasion they were in no position to assert their claim on the islands at the end of the War. The Chinese claim may have something to do with the present rule of international law enshrined in the United Nations charter that refuses to recognize sovereignty over lands acquired by conquest. There was no United Nations at the time of the last international affirmation of Japanese sovereignty. There certainly was no United Nations in 1895. Now if this present rule of law were to be considered retroactive in its application, and it is not, the reasoning China is would have some strange application sin the West. The rule the Chinese propose if applied in similar situations in the Western World would result in the following; the return of Scotland, Whales, and Northern Island to self rule, the return of parts of the American Southwest to Mexico ( but not nearly as much as Mexico thinks, but this isn't the place for that discussion), the return of the Papal States to the Catholic Church, and the list goes on. But whatever basis China makes its claim on there could be no discussion if the islands were developed and inhabited by Japanese nationals. So China now has a rationale for cranking the over all tension level down. At this point, thanks to the Japanese Government's action, anything is possible. The last thing China needs is blood shed near the islands.
Unfortunately the Chinese government got the commercial fishing population worked into a lather just before the opening of the fishing season in the region. Now thousands of Chinese fishing boats are headed to the area. There is only one hope to keep the peace. Those same Chinese Ocean Surveillance Service (OSS) Vessels (Coast Guard) that were being confrontational with Japan must now get in and among their own nation's commercial fishing fleet and prevent violations of Japan's presently recognized EEZ. The Japanese Coast Guard has to make contact with Chinese OSS vessels in the area and police strictly from their own EEZ side , prevent counter protests, stop hot pursuit of Chinese violators at their own EEZ line and work together with China's OSS vessels to keep the peace while preserving all important "face" for both side. If that can be done we survive this fishing season without a naval war in the Pacific. If that happens the credit must be given to the professionals of both Coast Guard's. The Japanese politicians made the right move in purchasing the islands but apparently failed to communicate their intentions of avoiding development/settlement to China. China foolishly over reacted and now is trying to pull in their horns, but they may have already driven the situation out of control. This was very foolish of China.
All Japan really has at stake assuming that a naval war can be kept naval in character are some uninhabited islands and a few square miles of ocean bottom Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), nothing the average man on the stree in Japan will miss much. But if China starts a war with Japan, the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force is a navy larger than Great Britain's and superbly trained and fiercely dedicated. It 's conceivable that the JMSDF could send the PLAN to the bottom of the sea by itself. However Japan won't be by itself it has a defense treaty with the United States. Not only would the PLAN not survive a combined contest with the U.S. and Japan, the U.S. would be forced at a minimum to suspend its debt service to China, one certainly doe not support the economy with cash infusions of a nation you are at war with. This understandable position is highly unlikely to result in any negative effects on the U.S. international credit rating, but it will ruin China and result in regime change. If the Communist party decides in its death struggle to strike out with a nuclear attack on U.S. or Japanese territory the whole country could be turned into a glow in the dark parking lot while we may have to engage in a complete urban renewal program for Honolulu, and /or Los Angeles. Never has the fate of so much of the world's population depended so exclusively on a small group Coast Guard officers of two nations who were virtually gun muzzle to gun muzzle a week ago. The really bad news is that the Chinese equivalent of a Coast Guard is brand new. What a trial by fire for the new guys on the block. We wish them success in keeping the peace and hope that is their mission. The swimming dragon has been playing with fire. It is time to pull back or prepare to be burned. Time for us and Japan to do everything possible to preserve the peace, but to be ready for naval war now. The ball is at half court but in Chinese hands, a lack of finesse means total end game for the Dragon and a lot of pain for us and Japan, but we are the ones who would emerge with economies and governments intact. Pray for both Coast Guards.
Click on the link below for a news story on the "armada" heading to the islands this morning.