The US Must First Acknowledge that Diaoyutai is Disputed Territory
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
November 27, 2013
Summary: The confrontation between Mainland China and Japan over the Diaoyutai Islands is on the verge of burning out of control. The financial magazine Forbes has warned the U.S. government this amounts to gross diplomatic negligence and incompetence. It could harm the entire world, and lead to disastrous consequences. The United States must return to its "We do not hold any position on the sovereignty of the Diaoyutai Islands" stance.
Full Text below:
The confrontation between Mainland China and Japan over the Diaoyutai Islands is on the verge of burning out of control. The financial magazine Forbes has warned the U.S. government this amounts to gross diplomatic negligence and incompetence. It could harm the entire world, and lead to disastrous consequences.
The Sino-Japanese conflict has steadily escalated. If it chooses to, the US can apply the brakes. Its first action should be to urge the parties to shelve the dispute. Japan, the Mainland, Taiwan, and the United States should agree that Diaoyutai sovereignty is currently in dispute. All parties must acknowledge that "Diaoyutai is territory over which controversy has yet to be settled."
The Diaoyutai Islands issue arose when the U.S. "turned over" the Diaoyutai Islands to the Japanese in 1972. But from the very beginning the United States has declared that it holds no position on who holds sovereignty over the island. It merely turned over "administrative jurisdiction" to Japan. Therefore Japan's current declaration of "sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands" has already exceeded the United States' understanding and commitment. If the United States were to actually argue that Japan holds sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands, it would provoke as well as become involved in a Sino-Japanese War. The United States cannot get away with such a lie. It amounts to a slap to its own face. Once the US has harmed the world by precipitating a catastrophe, it will have to answer to world opinion.
The United States must return to its original "We do not hold any position on the sovereignty of the Diaoyutai Islands" stance. It must acknowledge that Diaoyutai Islands sovereignty remains in dispute. The creator of the problem should resolve the problem. The US and Japan both allege that Beijing's announcement of an air defense identification zone changed the status quo. In fact Japan was the party that changed the status quo, when it "nationalized" the Diaoyutai Islands last September. Since then Mainland Chinese and Japanese planes and ships have clashed repeatedly in the waters around and the air above the Diaoyutai Islands to assert sovereignty. This is why Beijing's announced air defense identification zone must be regarded as merely a means of maintaining the status quo. Japan had already included the Diaoyutai Islands in its air defense identification zone. Had Beijing failed to make an equivalent response by including the Diaoyutai Islands, it would have failed to preserve Diaoyutai Island's disputed status. The United States has already said "We do not hold any position on Diaoyutai Islands sovereignty." Therefore it should not bias its position in favor of either China or Japan. It should acknowledge that China and Japan dispute the islands' sovereignty. It should attempt to guide the two parties to shelve the sovereignty dispute and jointly develop the Diaoyutai Islands' resources. It should guide the two parties toward a compromise settlement.
The United States says, on the one hand that it holds no position on the sovereignty of the Diaoyutai Islands. But on the other hand it encourages Japan to use the US-Japan Security Treaty to escalate the sovereignty conflict. Is this not a contradiction? The United States declared a "Return to Asia" for the purpose of "rebalancing." Its motive should have been the pursuit of peace and a win-win scenario for Asia. Instead it has provided the accelerant for a Sino-Japanese conflict. It has put the United States itself in jeopardy. Once it triggers military, political, and economic disaster, how will it answer to the people of Mainland China, Japan, and Taiwan, let alone to the American people? It actions will go down as an shameful debacle in America's history.
China and Japan have apparently begun a game of "Chicken." Two cars race toward a precipice. The driver who leaps from his car first is the chicken. But the potential for war may persuade the parties to be more cautious, and avoid touching off armed conflict. Even if China and Japan only engage in limited war, the damage to international political stability and economic prosperity would be inestimable. It is more likely that Japan would provoke a conflict. A democracy is more susceptible to populist sentiment. Paradoxically Beijing's authoritarianism may be better able to exercise self-restraint. Once the shooting begins, Japan's political and economic wounds will probably be more serious. Similarly, democracy is less able to withstand political and economic impacts than authoritarianism.
If the United States government wants to use the Diaoyutai Islands as a pretext to "Return to Asia" or engage in "Rebalancing," it is barking up the wrong tree. If the Japanese government under Abe wants to use the Diaoyutai Islands as a pretext to "contain China," it is playing with fire. The Diaoyutai Islands status quo has already been upset by Ishihara's "nationalization." Abe wants to change the Diaoyutai Islands status quo by changing Japan's "peace constitution" on which its peace and prosperity depend. If it succeeds, the Abe government will go down in infamy. Abe must not drag the United States down with it. Abe must not shove the United States into the inferno ahead of it.
As for Taiwan, Japan's air defense identification zone has already intruded into Diaoyutai Island waters. Yet no one on Taiwan has uttered a peep. Taiwan's own air defense identification zone actually excludes the Diaoyutai Islands. Yet no one utters a peep. Taiwan has taken advantage of the heightened conflict between Mainland China and Japan to conclude a "Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Agreement." It became the biggest beneficiary. It is the proverbial fisherman who benefitted from the struggle between the crane and the clam. It should not gloat over this victory. It should use Taiwan's position to maintain the "disputed status quo." Taiwan must realize that its strength alone is not enough to perpetuate the conflict.
The United States must return to its "We do not hold any position on the sovereignty of the Diaoyutai Islands" stance. Let all parties first accept the fact that the status quo is an ongoing dispute over sovereignty. After all, one must first acknowledge the existence of a dispute before one can sit down at the negotiating table and begin reconciliation.
2013.11.27 03:35 am