The Imperial Rescript on Surrender Echoes in Our Ears, August 18th Rolls Around Every Year
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 17, 2012
Summary: Recently Diaoyutai Islands Defense Movement activists based in Hong Kong
boarded the Kai Feng II. They successfully landed on the Diaoyutai
Islands on August 15 at 4 pm. This action was of critical significance.
It ensured that the sovereignty of the Diaoyutai Islands would remain
contested. Japan's ruling and opposition parties have incited populist
sentiment in an effort to assert sovereignty over the islands. This
action ensures that their efforts will not succeed.
Full Text below:
Recently Diaoyutai Islands Defense Movement activists based in Hong Kong boarded the Kai Feng II. They successfully landed on the Diaoyutai Islands on August 15 at 4 pm. This action was of critical significance. It ensured that the sovereignty of the Diaoyutai Islands would remain contested. Japan's ruling and opposition parties have incited populist sentiment in an effort to assert sovereignty over the islands. This action ensures that their efforts will not succeed.
This is the first successful landing on the Diaoyutai Islands since 2004. This landing has six symbolic and substantive implications.
One. The August 15th landing was made on the 67th anniversary of Japan's defeat in WWII. Two. This particular landing was directed primarily by private sector groups from Hong Kong. Three. The flags of the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China were simultaneously carried onto the Diaoyutai Islands. Four. This represents the greatest consensus the Blue and Green camps on Taiwan have ever achieved regarding the defense of the Diaoyutai Islands. Five. Japan "allowed" the Kai Feng II crew to land on the islands. It was assumed that Japan would dispatch Self-Defense Forces to stop them. But Japan held back and refrained from doing so. Six. This particular Diaoyutai Islands incident took place not long after Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev set foot on Kunashir Island and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak set foot on Dokdo, and Japan found itself beseiged on all sides.
First consider the actions of the Hong Kong Diaoyutai Islands Defense Movement. Taipei and Beijing both prevented local citizens from taking part in the landing. Their shared attitude was that "creating disturbances and defending a nation's territorial integrity and sovereignty are two different things." But private groups from Hong Kong gave provided both the Mainland and Taiwan with leverage. Beijing sternly warned Japan not to endanger the lives and property of the Diaoyutai Islands Defense Movement activists. Taipei supplied the Diaoyutai Islands Defense Movement boat with humanitarian supplies. As a result, the private sector Hong Kong group acted as a spokesman for the ruling and opposition parties on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Taipei and Beijing used "protecting the lives and property of the Diaoyutai Islands Defense Movement activists" as a pretext to reaffirm sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands.
The Kai Feng II carried both the red, white, and blue flag of the ROC and the five-star flag of the PRC onto the Diaoyutai Islands. The two sides' flags landed on the Diaoyutai Islands simultaneously. This offered the public a startling image. The Diaoyutai Islands territorial dispute is certain to bring the two sides closer together, both psychologically and substantively. The United States and Japan are not happy to see this. The Ma administration tried to distance itself from the action. Taiwan independence elements were especially opposed to the joint affirmation of sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands. Nevertheless the Hong Kong Diaoyutai Islands Defense Movement carried the two sides' flags onto the island. This shows that Taiwan and the Mainland remain inextricably linked by the Diaoyutai Islands issue. This shows that in certain contexts, such as in Hong Kong, the ROC and PRC flags can coexist, side by side, in the hearts of the Chinese people. That is why during certain domestic Hong Kong political demonstrations, one often sees the red, white, and blue ROC flag. The two flags simultaneously landing on the Diaoyutai Islands made for a startling image. It reflected the feelings of the Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. These feelings are not confined to the Diaoyutai Islands dispute.
This is the greatest consensus the Blue and Green camps on Taiwan have ever achieved regarding the defense of the Diaoyutai Islands. In reference to the Diaoyutai Islands issue, the Ma administration said "we cannot yield even an inch of territory." This is a matter of course. Lee Teng-hui and his ilk have frequently asserted that "The Diaoyutai Islands belong to Japan." This time they were silent. DPP Ilan County Magistrate Lin Kung-hsien said, "Since time immemorial the Diaoyutai Islands have been Chinese territory." He did not say that, "Since time immemorial, the Diaoyutai Islands have been the territory of the Nation of Taiwan." He personally boarded a boat and took to the sea to issue a "declaration of sovereignty." DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang loudly proclaimed that, "The Diaoyutai Islands belong to us, we will never give them up." Several days earlier he mocked the Ma administration for "using government ships to protect the five-star flag." In effect, Su Tseng-chang implied that the DPP supported the use of government ships to escort the ROC national flag to the Diaoyutai Islands. Political leaders on Taiwan have expressed sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands in one of two ways. They have either said that the islands belong to the "Nation of Taiwan," or that they belong to the Republic of China. The current Diaoyutai Islands incident has clearly led to a tectonic shift in Taiwan's political plates.
The Kai Feng II crew encountered little resistance to its landing. Past attempts often resulted in ship collisions and physical injuries. This time the Japanese were clearly pulling their punches. If Japan wants to prevent people from landing on the island, it must precipitate ship collisions and cause physical injuries. If Diaoyutai Islands Defense Movement activists want to land on the islands, their boats must be damaged and their people must be injuried. This time the Japanese allowed the landing, then arrested the activists. The Japanese clearly felt compelled to exercise political restraint. Beijing repeatedly issued advance warnings. If the Japanese dispatched Self-Defense Forces, i.e., troops, it would inevitably lead to "warship vs. warship" confrontations. As a result the Japanese heeded this "sound advice." The Japanese Coast Guard handled the matter in a low-keyed manner. This was a case of not pushing one's luck.
As this newspaper's editorial on the 14th pointed out, Japan is simultaneously in conflict with three of its neighbors. On July 3, Dimitry Medvedev set foot on Kunashir Island. On August 10, Lee Myung-bak set foot on Dokdo. On August 15, Diaoyutai Islands Defense Movement activists set foot on the Diaoyutai Islands. Russia, South Korea, and China have all suffered grievously at the hands of Japan. During the Russo-Japanese War, Russia and Japan clashed over interests in China. Korea suffered under Japanese colonialism. China, in particular, has deep and long lasting grievances. The disputes over the sovereignty of these three islands represent a long history of grievances. This is why the parties involved must proceed cautiously. In particular, Japan should "know when to hold, and know when to fold." It should not allow itself to be beseiged on all sides and become the object of universal scorn.
The day the Kai Feng II landed on the Diaoyutai Islands was the 67th anniversary of Japan's defeat in WWII. At 12:00 on August 15th, 1945, Japanese Emperor Hirohito read out loud his Imperial Rescript on Surrender. He offered his unconditional surrender and ended the war. He said, "it being far from Our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandisement." He said, "Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion which may endanger needless complications, or any fraternal contention and strife which may create confusion, lead ye astray and cause ye to lose the confidence of the world." This was 67 years ago. Japan was in the grip of Japanese militarism. Ironically, this remains the state of populist politics in Japan 67 years later.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda spoke at the August 18th service commemorating the end of WWII. He said, "Japan will adhere to its oath not to wage war. It will continue to pursue world peace " But if Japan wants to assert sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands and continue its occupation, how can it do so without waging war? Noda spoke of his opposition to war. But the world is not just listening to what he says. It is also watching what he does.
The Diaoyutai Islands dispute has no short term solution. For the time being, one can only maintain the status quo, under which its sovereignty remains contested. One can only await a future solution. Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao have already exercised a high degree of restraint. They have already made many concessions. Japan must not be insatiable. It must not leave Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao no alternative. Japan's extreme right-wingers, such as Shintaro Ishihara, may want the Diaoyutai Islands to become part of the Yasukuni Shrine. But the Japanese government as a whole must not allow itself to be led around by the nose. Emperor Hirohito's Imperial Rescript on Surrender still echoes in our ears. August 15th still rolls around once each year.
2012.08.17 02:24 am