Tuesday, December 11, 2012

12/11/2012 How Far will The Dragon Swim, The Taiwan Solution


dragon head silhoette
How Far Will The Dragon Swim? S Series of Essays On China's Naval Activities
No matter what the naval issue, eventually all things naval in character end up being discussed in the pages of the Naval Institute's PROCEEDINGS. We've been following the Senkaku/Diaoyu Tai dispute for months. Finally in the December 2012 issue of the Naval Institute's POCEEDINGS on page 10 David D. Chen and Cary C. Chen propose something completely new, that could conceivably work. It probably sounds great to Taiwan and China, and if adopted would get the U.S. off the hook. The leadership in Japan might see it as a win/win but probably not the general populace. 

File:Japan Coast Guard PL51 Hida 2.jpg
Japanese Coast Guard Cutter , so far all sides in the dispute have deployed only coast guard type forces and avoided navy to navy confrontation. The most hazardous incident so far has been a Taiwan /Japan Coast Guard on Coast Guard water cannon fight inside Japan's recognized territorial waters. But as we describe in our text , the incident puts a dampener on the cure proposed in the Naval Institute Article.

 The islands in question are specifically mentioned in the treaty between the United States and Japan as a portion of the Japanese homeland that the U.S is pledged to defend. The islands are uninhabited though surrounded by fairly rich fishing grounds. There is a possibility of off shore oil deposits. While all of islands considered together are really only a few acres of sand, rock and scrub brush, they extend and enlarge Japan's ocean Exclusive Economic Zone. However China's aggressive naval actions challenging Japan's right to administer and economically exploit these islands is rapidly becoming so escalated that Japan has to seriously consider the cost benefit ratio of keeping these rocks. If they decide to keep them we have to help defend them. The cost benefit ratio to us is hardly worth it until you consider the symbolism. We must honor our defense treaty with Japan.  We lose all credibility as an ally if we won't assist in repelling an aggressor invading an alley's real estate that we have recognized by treaty. All of our allies would have to question the value of any U.S. alliance. In the end if Japan decides to hang on to these islands we will have to back their claim with blood and steel. Even if Japan decides to give them up on her own, we have a problem. To give the islands up under military pressure from China is to reward aggressive behavior by a regional bully who has no compunction against aggressive behavior. The article by Chens presents a possible third way.

 The Chens propose that Japan could transfer administrative control of the islands to Taiwan under Taiwan's title of "Republic of China". There is some valid historical reason for such a transfer and the rationale would be hard for Communist China to refute. In contrast to the treaty between the United States and Japan, the multi lateral 1943 Cairo Declaration of the Allies stated that Japan would be stripped of all the islands in the Pacific which she had seized or occupied since the beginning of the First World War in 1914. Japan would also be forced to return all territories stolen from China such as Manchuria, Formosa, and the Pescadores. The PRC has consistently maintained that the Cairo Declaration of 1943 which is incorporated by reference into the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty by way of the Potsdam Proclamation should be controlling despite the specific mention of the Senkaku / Diaoyu islands in the treaty.The PRC did not participate in the 1951 treaty because the Communist party was still engaged in running the Republic of China government off shore to Taiwan. The official name of Taiwan for quite some time was "The Republic of China". Indeed the government that the Cairo Declaration referred to was the very government that took refuge on Taiwan. 

 The Chens ask;"Why not hold the PRC to its word and turn the administration of the islands over to the Republic of China, thus turning the tables in this latest campaign of 'legal warfare'." In their Naval Institute PROCEEDINGS article this month the two authors claim that the turn over would:

  • 'Reward China and Taiwan for recent stabilization of cross - strait ties and improve economic relations, and place the two sides in common cause over a security/territory issue.
  • Remove a perennial crisis point from the first island chain and the potential for its recurring destabilizing impact on Sino-Japanese relations.
  • Keep the islands within the U.S. alliance structure and security umbrella." 
 So far we have to admit that the PROCEEDINGS article makes some valid points. But this next quote of the authors makes us believe that at the time their article was drafted that they were unaware of certain news stories that we carried in the News Section that just didn't draw any serious media attention in the United States.

 "Taiwan, Japan, and the United States are all on the same side of the issue. All want stability in the Western Pacific and to curtail Chinese revanchist tendencies. Taiwan could easily be convinced to go along with such a scheme"

 The problem with this idea is believing that Taiwan wants stability in the Western Pacific when it recently acted worse than China. A day after China faked a fishing vessel invasion of Japan's EEZ around the islands but actually stopped short of Japan's territorial waters, and then departed the area Taiwan showed up on scene. A Taiwan Coast Guard vessel escorted a number of their fishing vessels right into Japanese waters where they refused to leave eventually forcing a Japanese Coast Guard vessel to engage them with water cannon. As soon as the Japanese Coast Guard turned their water cannon on to oust the invading fishermen, the Taiwan Coast Guard vessel crossed into Japanese territorial waters and opened up on the Japanese Coast Guard with their water cannon, providing a "covering fire" of sorts until their fishing vessels departed the area. Then the Taiwanese Coast Guard vessel broke off contact and departed. So the Taiwanese now hold the record for most direct, violent, and obnoxious insult to Japan's sovereignty.  Just as the Japanese people will resist giving the islands to Red China due to the appearance of rewarding illegal and improper behavior, the fact is that the seemingly humorous "Great Coast Guard water gun fight" of Senkaku / Diaoyu makes Taiwan even more unacceptable for a "gift" of the islands. The existing strong nationalist sentiment in Japan that wants to hold on to the islands at all costs is acutely aware that the Japanese government just paid the private Japanese owners a fortune so that the decision will be the states' only.

 The only way we see the Taiwan focused solution working now would be if all sides stood down for at least a year and the bargaining goes indoors. Taiwan should offer to pay Japan a significant sum, not for the islands but for "past administration and security expenses"or whatever label they want to put on it. The idea of the Chens as described in the PROCEEDINGS is insightful and unique but it probably was drafted before Taiwan decided to act like a reckless adolescent. The "Great Water Gun Fight" as laughable as it seems and as un-newsworthy as it was treated changes everything.
To the Japanese nationalists it was the ultimate insult to the nation's sovereignty  Taiwan crossed a line and only time and some sign of recompense can ever make the Taiwan focused solution work.

Below is a link to the Proceedings article:

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