Diaoyutai: A US Blessing for Japan? Or a Curse?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 24, 2012
Summary: In 1972, when the United States transferred sovereignty over the Ryukyus to Japan, it also transferred "administrative jurisdiction" over the Diaoyutai Islands to Japan. At the time, this was seen as a blessing conferred upon Japan by the United States. Now it seems like a nightmare, like a curse.
Full Text below:
In 1972, when the United States transferred sovereignty over the Ryukyus to Japan, it also transferred "administrative jurisdiction" over the Diaoyutai Islands to Japan. At the time, this was seen as a blessing conferred upon Japan by the United States. Now it seems like a nightmare, like a curse.
This action by the United States was questionable in at least two respects. One. The United States was merely the custodian of the Diaoyutai Islands, not their owner. It obviously had no sovereignty over the islands. So why did it not return the Diaoyutai Islands to its original and rightful owner? Why did it instead turn it over to Japan? The US transferred "administrative jurisdiction" to Japan. This means that neither the United States nor Japan had sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands. Two. Geopolitically and geographically, the Diaoyutai Islands are "outlying islands of Taiwan." There was no reason to treat them and the Ryukyus as some sort of "package deal." The United States dealt with the matter carelessly. It overestimated Japan. It underestimated Mainland China. It ignored the Republic of China.
Consider the historical backdrop. One. Oil reserves were discovered in waters surrounding the Diaoyutai Islands. Two. Mainland China and Taiwan were politically divided. Both Mainland China and Taiwan were militarily weak. The United States and Japan saw this as an opportunity. But the Diaoyutai Islands have been China's territory since antiquity. This is an irrefutable fact. Japan long ago acknowledged that the island chain was under "Qing dynasty China's jurisdiction" and that it was an "outlying island of Taiwan." The US illegally transferred the Diaoyutai Islands to Japan, purely on the basis of a piece of paper. This was a high-handed act of imperialism. It is not how history will play out. The Diaoyutai Islands are "hot merchandise" that the United States stole from China and gave to Japan.
The first curse left by the U.S. was to rip open the long festering wounds between China and Japan. These wounds will not heal any time soon.
Between the late nineteenth century and the mid twentieth century, Japan's actions turned Japan into China's most hated enemy. The most egregious of these actions was Japan's inhumane war of aggression against China launched during the 1930s. Japan inflicted upon the Chinese people eight years of untold blood and tears. These wounds can be healed only gradually, through sincere efforts by the ruling and opposition parties on both sides. The United States transferred "administrative jurisdiction" of the Diaoyutai Islands to Japan. Conflict over the island chain created a time warp. It revived old hatreds. Mere mention of the Diaoyutai Islands and a century of hatred between the two countries rushes back into the hearts of the two peoples. All attempts to heal the wounds between China and Japan can be undone instantly by the Diaoyutai Islands conflict. What is this, if not a curse left behind by the United States?
The US left behind a second curse. The Diaoyutai Islands conflict makes it difficult to sever the political connection between Taipei and Beijing. What is this for the US, but a curse? Whenever the Diaoyutai Islands conflict erupts, it touches a raw nerve that links Taipei and Beijing.
The Republic of China must reaffirm its sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands. One. The Diaoyutai Islands have been Chinese territory since antiquity. Two. The Diaoyutai Islands are outlying islands of Taiwan. They are traditional Taiwan fishing grounds. Three. If the Republic of China were to surrender the Diaoyutai Islands, the public on both sides of the Strait could not allow such an act to stand. During the 1970s Chen Ruoxi and others "reidentified with their native lands." The People's Republic of China also finds it impossible to relinquish sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands. Beijing also affirms that the Diaoyutai Islands have been Chinese territory since antiquity. Beijing affirms that they are outlying islands of Taiwan. If Beijing were to relinquish sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands, that would be tantamount to relinquishing sovereignty over Taiwan. The Diaoyutai Islands conflict has become a raw nerve that links Taipei and Beijing. What is this, if not a consequence of the United States' own short-sightedness?
Because the U.S. was short-sighted, the Diaoyutai Islands conflict has become a festering wound between China and Japan. It has also become a raw nerve that links Taipei and Beijing. The US should have taken into account history, geopolitical reality, geography, and a whole range of facts in evidence. It should have acknowledged that the Diaoyutai Islands were outlying islands of Taiwan. It should not have used the Ryukyus as a pretext to deal with the Diaoyutai Islands as it did. Had the US done so, none of this would have happened. Unfortunately everything has happened. The United States now feels compelled to argue that it "transferred" the islands. Japan has bitten into the Diaoyutai Islands. It cannot neither spit it out nor swallow it. Beijing is using the Diaoyutai Islands conflict to bolster its position vis a vis Taiwan. This has affected the ROC's political status and public sentiment on Taiwan. The ROC is operating in the margins. It must cope with the United States, Japan, Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, and public sentiment on Taiwan.
The current Diaoyutai Islands conflict has rubbed salt into the wounds between China and Japan. It has touched a raw nerve that links Taipei and Beijing. Japan does not dare stop Diaoyutai Islands Defense Movement activists from landing on the islands. Nor is Japan able to prevent Japanese right-wingers from landing on the islands. Mass protests have erupted in cities and towns all over Mainland China. The United States and Japan held military exercises on how to defend the islands. The conflict is intensifying. How will it end?
This year happens to be the 40th anniversary of the United States transfer of "administrative jurisdiction" over the Diaoyutai Islands to Japan. The currents of history first flow in one direction, then in another. Forty years of vicissitudes have revealed just how outrageous and shortsighted the U.S. decision was. The world has witnesed it all. Did the United States give Japan a blessing, or a curse?
2012.08.24 01:55 am