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Remain resolute on Senkakus in face of China’s provocations
Publication Date : 12-09-2013
Japan should remain undaunted by China’s persistent menacing conduct and adhere to its resolute stance in dealing with that country.
Wednesday marks one year since the government placed the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture under state control. On 63 days during the past year, Chinese government ships have entered Japanese waters around the group of islands. Chinese aircraft also have intruded into Japan’s airspace during that time.
On Sunday and Monday, two Chinese bombers and warships passed between Okinawa Island and Miyakojima—an island about 290 kilometres southwest of the former island. On Monday, an unmanned Chinese aircraft flew over waters off the Senkaku Islands, an incident that prompted an Air Self-Defence Force fighter to scramble. Such incidents could trigger an accidental conflict between the two countries.
One of the most important tasks facing Japan and China today is to rebuild bilateral relations. The two nations have close economic ties. They also need to promote cooperation in addressing such issues as North Korea’s nuclear weapons development and China’s environmental problems.
If the hostile situation facing Japan and China continues, it is bound to adversely affect both nations.
However, Tokyo cannot yield to Beijing over issues related to this nation’s sovereignty. The Senkaku Islands—which China calls Diaoyu and Taiwan Tiaoyutai—inherently belong to Japan from the standpoint of both international law and historical facts. Therefore, no territorial dispute exists between Japan and China over the islands. By the same token, there is no need to leave the Senkaku issue to gather dust on the shelf, either.
Given this, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had good reason to reject China’s offer to hold a Japan-China summit meeting “if [Tokyo] acknowledges there is a territorial dispute [over the Senkakus] and agrees to shelve the problem”.
Better policing needed
The government is currently stepping up efforts by the Japan Coast Guard to better police waters surrounding the Senkaku archipelago. It is essential that Japan continue to do all it can to defend its territorial integrity, including improving its defence capability.
The government’s recent signing of a fisheries agreement with Taiwan can be regarded as a certain measure of success in stopping Beijing and Taipei forming cooperative ties in dealing with the Senkaku issue. This is significant because Taipei also claims sovereignty over the Senkakus.
The Senkaku Islands are covered by the Japan-US Security Treaty, which serves as the greatest deterrence to China. The Japan-US relationship was unstable when the then Democratic Party of Japan-led government placed the Senkakus under state control. However, immediately after taking office as prime minister, Abe made an appropriate decision to try to bring the shaky bilateral alliance back on track.
During talks in St. Petersburg last week, US President Barack Obama urged Chinese leader Xi Jinping to resolve the Senkaku issue through diplomacy and dialogue rather than force. The US president’s direct call for the top Chinese leader to exercise restraint in this respect is significant.
Japan and the United States must closely cooperate in dealing with China and refrain from making concessions to that country. By doing this, Beijing may be encouraged to change its strong-arm diplomatic tactics.
During a brief meeting with Abe in St. Petersburg, the Chinese president said he wanted to see progress in promoting what has been repeatedly called “strategically reciprocal relations” by the two countries’ top leaders in recent years. It was the first time the two leaders had spoken to each other.
What was the true motive behind the Chinese leader’s remark?
Xi’s administration has sought to stir nationalistic sentiment among the Chinese in trying to unite his people and gain popular support. This means he cannot adopt what his people may perceive as “a weak-kneed approach” in dealing with Japan. With this in mind, the Japanese government must be prepared to see China’s threatening and provocative conduct in waters around the Senkaku Islands continue for some time to come.