Japan, Do Not Become the Object of Universal Scorn
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 14, 2012
Summary: The Ma administration proposed an East China Sea Peace Initiative. On the one hand, it sent 120 mortars and 40 anti-aircraft artillery to Taiping Island. On the other hand, it responded to a possible move by Diaoyutai Defense Movement activists from the Mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. It faces a complex and treacherous situation. It must avoid a crisis. It must seize the moment. It must refrain from inciting conflict. But it must not run from provocations. It must respond judiciously. It must find a way to make a bold breakthrough.
Full Text below:
Japanese lawmakers have threatened to set foot on Diaoyutai Island on the 19th. Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, including the Taiwan Region, the Mainland Region, the Hong Kong SAR, and the Macau SAR, claim sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands. They have arranged to meet in the waters surrounding Pengjia Island. They will then proceed to the Diaoyutai Islands to proclaim sovereignty.
The current crisis was provoked by Japan. In April, Tokyo Mayor Shintaro Ishihara announced the "purchase" of the Diaoyutai Islands. In July, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda threatened to "nationalize" the "purchase" of the Diaoyutai Islands. Japan is in the grip of a new wave of populism. The Diaoyutai Island issue has become political a football. Rival Japanese politicians are determined to incite nationalist sentiment for own domestic political advantage. Chinese people from the Mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao, will not tolerate abuse. They feel compelled to defend their national territory. They demand justice. But in the eyes of Japanese politicians, their feelings mean nothing. These Japanese politicians are populist demagogues who care only about domestic, not foreign political sentiment. This makes them dangerous. It also makes it unlikely that they will achieve their goals.
Japan faces an unprecendent situation. For the first time in history, three territorial disputes have come to a head, simultaneously. Japan has disputes over the four northern islands with Russia, over Dokdo with Korea, and the Diaoyutai Islands with Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao. . The three disputes are clearly having an effect on each other. Japan's opponents may well join hands against Japan. Japan must not allow itself to hijacked by populist sentiment. It must not become the object of universal condemnation.
On August 10th, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak set foot on Dokdo. He attracted worldwide notice. Earlier, on July 3rd, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev set foot on Kunashir Island, one of the four northern islands. He declared that Russia would "never yield an inch of territory." Medvedev set foot on the four islands back in 2010 as well, during his term as president. Dmitry Medvedev and Lee Myung-bak have set foot on islands claimed by Japan. Japan's escalation in the Diaoyutai Islands has left it unable to respond to other disputes. They are taking advantage of this fact. They are using Japan's plight to gain leverage. As mentioned earlier, these disputes are having an effect on each other. Japan has three territorial disputes with three different nations. Naturally they could join hands against Japan. If Japan handles these disputes recklessly, it could encourage an alliance of sorts among Russia, South Korea, Mainland China, and Taiwan. The crisis could enter a new phase. Three conflicts are escalating simultaneously. Japan must not see this as merely an historical coincidence. It must take this very seriously.
These three territorial disputes are the result of Japanese attempts to exploit wartime chaos. The Diaoyutai Islands dispute is the result of Japan's attempt to exploit the chaos resulting from the First Sino-Japanese War of 1895. It is now exploiting the Divided China situation to its own advantage and to the advantage of the US. China is currently weak. Japan is taking advantage of China's current weakness to prey on it. China may be divided. But the consensus among Chinese on the Mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao, is to make no concessions. Chinese in all four regions share a common history. No one in the four regions is willing to tolerate abuse. Japan is not the only country in the world with strong public sentiment.
Given the situation, Japan should consider two possibilities. One. After Medvedev set foot on Kunashir Island, and Lee Myung-bak set foot on Dokdo, Russia and South Korea gained an advantage. Japan currently occupies and patrols the Diaoyutai Islands. There it enjoys an advantage. To avoid escalating the disputes, it should practice moderation. If it insists on raising the ante, if Japanese legislators set foot on Diaoyutai island, if the Japanese government "purchases" the island, or worse, if Japan's Prime Minister sets foot on the islands, the consequences could be catastrophic. When Medvedev set foot on Kunashir Island, Japan merely recalled its Ambassador to Russia. When Lee Myung-bak set foot on Dokdo, Japan merely appealed to the International Court of Justice. Both cases were handled cautiously. Only with Diaoyutai Island has Japan recklessly ignored the status quo. On the contrary, it has raised the ante and upset the status quo.
Two. As previously mentioned, Japan must realize the error of its ways. Japan is not the only nation that has powerful nationalist sentiments. Other nations also have powerful nationalist sentiments. The main reason Medvedev and Lee set foot on their respective islands, was that the two nations have adopted democratic electoral systems. They must respond to public opinion. The Diaoyutai Island dispute will not escalate to the point where Hu Jintao sets foot on the island, mainly because Mainland China still has an authoritarian system that exercises restraint in diplomacy. It need not appease public sentiment on the Chinese Mainland. So far Japan's Prime Minister has not dared to set foot on Diaoyutai Island. It knows it must not play with fire. Taipei has attempted to mediate between Tokyo and Beijing. On August 5th, President Ma Ying-jeou proposed an East China Sea Peace Initiative. He reaffirmed our long held sovereignty, but said we were willing to shelve disputes, promote peace, and develop the resources jointly. He called on all parties to exercise self-restraint and not take increasingly aggressive action. These words may sound bland. But this is the only way to get to the root of the problem. In fact, the status quo is highly favorable to Japan. The status quo has been maintained through external constraints. Japan must exercise self-restraint. If it raises the ante and upsets the status quo, the long term results may not be nearly so favorable to Japan.
The disputes over the four northern islands, Dokdo, the Diaoyutai Islands, and the South China Sea islands, have already had an affect on each other. They have already led to a joining of hands against Japan. The US and Japan joining hands may counter this situation to some degree. But it will never solve the problem. Russia, South Korea, and China have disputes with Japan over the sovereignty of these islands. As one can imagine, this has the effect of containing Japan. It amounts to an alliance against Japan. The joining of hands between the Mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao is especially intriguing. Japan must not allow itself to be hijacked by domestic populist sentiment. It must return to a sensible diplomatic posture. Enough is enough. Leave bad enough alone.
The Ma administration proposed an East China Sea Peace Initiative. On the one hand, it sent 120 mortars and 40 anti-aircraft artillery to Taiping Island. On the other hand, it responded to a possible move by Diaoyutai Defense Movement activists from the Mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. It faces a complex and treacherous situation. It must avoid a crisis. It must seize the moment. It must refrain from inciting conflict. But it must not run from provocations. It must respond judiciously. It must find a way to make a bold breakthrough.
2012.08.14 01:54 am