Diaoyutai Conflict: Do Not Fire the First Shot
United Daily editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 8, 2013
Summary: The Diaoyutai Islands conflict is unpredictable. The ruling and
opposition parties on Taiwan have been caught up in the controversy. 1.
Su Tseng-chang visited Japan. Before leaving it was rumored that he
would meet with Shintaro Ishihara, leader of the Japan Restoration
Party. Upon returning, he repeatedly denied doing so. 2. On January 24,
the "Quanjiafu" entered Diaoyutai waters. Some in Washington and Tokyo
seem to believe this action was taken at the behest of the Ma
administration, or at least with its support.
Full text below:
The Diaoyutai Islands conflict is unpredictable. The ruling and opposition parties on Taiwan have been caught up in the controversy. 1. Su Tseng-chang visited Japan. Before leaving it was rumored that he would meet with Shintaro Ishihara, leader of the Japan Restoration Party. Upon returning, he repeatedly denied doing so. 2. On January 24, the "Quanjiafu" entered Diaoyutai waters. Some in Washington and Tokyo seem to believe this action was taken at the behest of the Ma administration, or at least with its support.
If Su Tseng-chang actually planed to meet with Ishihara, that is mind-boggling. It shows that high profile politicians on Taiwan lack political awareness, to the point where they have utterly no international common sense. The Quanjiafu should be considered a civilian incident. The ROC Coast Guard ship even used its PA system to tell the PRC ocean surveillance ship that "These are Republic of China territorial waters. Please leave immediately." Yet some in the U.S. and Japan still think the Ma administration participated in a cross-Strait Diaoyutai Islands defense exercise. Japan even postponed the fishing rights negotiations between Taipei and Tokyo. As we can see, the Diaoyutai Islands conflict is complex and subtle.
The Diaoyutai Islands conflict has led to saber rattling. The US, Mainland China and Japan, which are involved in the conflict, are the world's three largest economies. The Republic of China is also part of the conflict. Currently Japan and Mainland China are exchanging verbal volleys. The number of ships and aircraft involved are increasing, both in number and in frequency of deployment. As a result of the US-Japan Security Treaty, the United States is backing Japan. Tensions among the three parties is increasing.
Japan's approach on the issue of sovereignty, is to avoid talking about it altogether, while trying to avoid conflict. Special Envoy to Beijing Natsuo Yamaguchi has suggested that "Chinese and Japanese military aircraft refrain from entering Diaoyutai airspace." That is because ocean vessel speeds are slow. Aircraft speeds are fast. A warning shot or radar lock could easily lead to a perception of hostile intent, and provoke an unintended shooting war. Yamaguchi's proposal is predicated upon "Japanese aircraft also refraining from entering Diaoyutai airspace." This could be interpreted as Japan limiting its "sovereignty." But Beijing is not impressed.
Beijing resolutely maintains that Japan must acknowledge that the sovereignty of Diaoyutai is in dispute. But hardliners in Japan refuse. To do so would be tantamount to denying Japan's sovereignty. But if Japan refuses to acknowledge that the sovereignty of the islands is in dispute, how can the two sides continue talks?
The Mainland may be waiting for a positive response from the Abe Cabinet. But it has not received one. During the general election Shinzo Abe suggested that government officials be stationed on the Diaoyutai Islands. Upon being elected prime minister, he stopped mentioning this. Who knew that on February 1, during interpolation in the House of Councillors, he would once again proclaim that "stationing government officials on the Diaoyutai Islands is one option for maintaining stability in the Diaoyutai Island waters."
If Japan actually stations government officials on the Diaoyutai Islands, the outbreak of war, unthinkable as it may be, might be inevitable.
The People's Liberation Army General Logistics Department has issued an internal report. In it, Political Commissar Liu Yuan, son of Liu Shaoqi, pointed out that to ensure long term peace and development and strategic opportunities, the PLA does not rule out "taking action when required." Li said "As a soldier one must subordinate oneself to the central government's assessment of the overall situation. Naturally that includes the central government ordering us to take strong action, and to engage in military conflict." The verbal offensive between Japan and the Mainland has already reached the point where little can be added. .
The U.S. has a security treaty with Japan. The US says it holds no position regarding the sovereignty of the Diaoyutai Islands. Yet it has long supported Japan's jurisdiction. During a press conference with the Japanese Foreign Minister, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a strong statement. She said the US opposes any unilateral action against Japan's jurisdiction. When Abe visits Washington in February, he is looking forward to President Obama reiterating position.
The Chinese mainland has refuted these assertions using harsh language. It has concluded that the United States' support for Japanese control over the Diaoyutai Islands, is in fact a challenge to China's sovereignty. The US is forcing China to fight a war it does not want to fight. Abe is about to visit the United States. A cross-Strait civilian protest is brewing. Naturally it will converge on Washington to protest the activities of the United States and Japan.
At this very moment, it has been rumored that the PLA Navy's fire-control radar locked onto Japanese ship movements. Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera held an emergency press conference. He said "I hope the Chinese side will restrain itself." In fact, up to now, the Mainland has taken a "fight without breaking off" approach. Its goal is to maintain the island's disputed status. As long as Japan does not station government officials on the island, the two sides' aircraft and ships can posture without fighting. Japan precipitated the crisis. Therefore Japan must defuse the crisis. If it refuses to acknowledge that the sovereignty of the islands is in dispute, no resolution is possible.
The aforementioned PLA Army General Liu Yuan said "We must have the resolve at such a time to hou fa zhi ren." The term means "to allow the other side to attack first, then seize the opportunity to counterattack and subdue them." The term "hou fa zhi ren" means not firing the first shot, and not being the one who blows up. This is the bottom line as the various parties jockey for position in the Diaoyutai Islands. This principle applies to the US, the Mainland, and Japan alike. Otherwise circumstances could lead to war, the consequences of which could be catastrophic.
At such a time, Su Tseng-chang must exercise international common sense. The Ma administration must be even more judicious in its handling of the Diaoyutai Islands conflict, and even more aware of the big picture. It must not fall victim to a stray bullet.