Monday, January 21, 2013

Diaoyutai Islands Crisis: Acknowledge the Dispute to Shelve the Dispute

Diaoyutai Islands Crisis:
Acknowledge the Dispute to Shelve the Dispute
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A translation
January 19, 2013

Summary: From Taipei's perspective, Beijing and Tokyo's aircraft and ships are traveling back on forth in Republic of China territorial waters and airspace. We cannot "stand atop the mountain and watch horses kick each other below." We must maintain peace in the Diaoyutai Islands.

Full text below:

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made three visits to ASEAN nations. His visits are seen as an effort to "contain" the Chinese mainland. Former Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio visited Mainland China. He went to the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall to issue a sincere apology.

Meanwhile, the Diaoyutai Islands sovereignty dispute continues raging. The two very different actions offered a powerful contrast. Members of the Japanese public have different opinions on how to conduct Sino-Japanese relations, and how to respond to the Diaoyutai Islands crisis. The two politicians' conduct merely reflect these differences in public opinion.

Shintaro Ishihara represents the extreme right-wing. He advocates repealing the peace constitution, manufacturing atomic bombs to use against China. On the other hand, Kenzaburo Oe urges the Japanese government to cease alleging that "There is no territorial dispute." Haruki Murakami says "Territorial ambition is like strong liquor. Afterwards one wakes up with a terrible headache and finds oneself stripped clean." Public opinion is divided. This makes political leadership even more important.

After all, China and Japan have a past that no one wishes to repeat. Now they must deal with the Diaoyutai Islands conflict. Mainstream opinion on Japan favors the right-wing. But Hatoyama, Oe, and Murakami also have support among the public. Japanese politicians must cherish democratic freedom and democratic debate. They must correct public misconceptions, not fan populist sentiment. Japan is at a crossroads. The entire country is at risk.

Japan today is a democracy that engages in rational debate. Think back to 70 or 80 years ago. Japan had no room for rational debate. During the 1930s Japanese invaded China and waged a Pacific War.

Japan invaded China. It launched its "Southern Expansion Doctrine," its "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere Doctrine," and the Pacific War. There was no shortage of internal dissent. But under the militarist regime, there was no room for rational debate. The military hijacked the cabinet. The Cabinet threatened the Emperor. The Emperor supported the military. The entire country marched down a path of no return. Recall Emperor Hirohito's belated assessment of Prime Minister Konoe Mo: "Without any preparation, he led us into war. Once the war began, we could only pursue it to the end." Recall Harada Kumao's assessment of Konoe Mo. "Prime Minister Konoe Mo is like Mount Fuji. From afar it is beautiful. But up close it is merely a pile of ugly rocks. Having someone like him as Prime Minister sends a chill up one's spine.

That was an era during which rational debate was impossible. Today should be an era of rational debate. Japanese politicians should use democracy to encourage rational thought. They should not use democracy to incite populist sentiment.

The best way to deal with the Diaoyutai Islands conflict is to "maintain the disputed status quo" in order to ensure a peaceful settlement. This is the view expressed in the first editorial this newspaper wrote in response to the Diaoyutai Islands conflict. We still see it this way today. Even the United States says it takes no position on the sovereignty of the Diaoyutai Islands. It says it gave Japan the right to administer the islands, nothing more. Yet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe insists that Japanese sovereignty over the "Senkaku Islands" is not in question. He insists that there is no room for negotiation, and that Japan will not allow the "Senkaku Islands" to become an object of negotiation. He rejects the "disputed status quo."

Prime Minister Abe insists that "The Senkaku Islands are Japanese territory." He insists that this is a simple matter of fact. But if it is, why did he promise not to station Japanese officials on the island? Could it be because sovereignty over the island remains disputed? By contrast, Beijing says that "We have not overflown Diaoyutai Islands airspace. We have already exercised self-restraint." This is tantamount to accepting "disputed status." Japan should agree not to station officials on the islands. Beijing should agree not to overfly the islands' airspace. To assert that the sovereignty of the islands is not in dispute is irrational. Such a claim is reminiscent of Mount Fuji. It may look attractive from a distance, but not from up close.

The Diaoyutai Islands conflict has turned into a Mexican standoff. It is an explosive situation. The concerned parties should acknowledge the islands' disputed status. They should then shelve the dispute. Neither side should dispatch aircraft or ships to make shows of force or to test the waters to maintain the islands' "disputed status." The politicians must acknowledge the islands' disputed status, either verbally or in writing. This will avoid risk to their aircraft and ships.

One must acknowledge a dispute before one can shelve a dispute. Refusal to acknowledge a dispute will merely make it impossible to end a dispute. Aircraft and ships must then be used to maintain the disputed status. The Abe Cabinet must bear the bulk of the responsibility. Japan has the advantage of "effective management" of the islands. If it refuses to acknowledge the islands' "disputed status," its opponents will not be able to show weakness. Otherwise one wrong move, and all bets are off.

From Taipei's perspective, Beijing and Tokyo's aircraft and ships are traveling back on forth in Republic of China territorial waters and airspace. We cannot "stand atop the mountain and watch horses kick each other below." We must maintain peace in the Diaoyutai Islands.

2013.01.19 02:15 am













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