The Island Dispute Between China and Japan: The Other Side of the Story

Yves here. Please note I am posting this piece in order to stir reader discussion. The history of the islands known as Diaoyu and Senkaku, depending on what side of the fight you are on, is plenty tortured. One of my good buddies was predicting in the mid 1990s that they would be the casus belli for World War III.

By Robert H. Wade, professor of political economy at the London School of Economics. Cross posted from Triple Crisis

The current dispute between China and Japan over a few barren islands inhabited by goats – called Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese – looks at first sight to be a mere territorial spat. But it has escalated to a very dangerous level in recent months — first words, then actions of police forces, now actions of air forces, and, behind all these, both sides have mobilised all their military, political, economic, diplomatic, and cultural energies to engage in the dispute. It is more fundamental than normal territorial disputes, because the very identities of the two countries are at stake.

A strong narrative has taken hold in the West and much of East Asia about China’s behaviour, which starts with the proposition that China is the provocateur. Examples include, “China sows new seeds of conflict with neighbours”;[1] China has adopted an “increasingly sharp-elbowed approach to its neighbors, especially Japan”;[2] “China…has launched a new campaign of attrition against Japan over the Senkaku islands…. Beijing has sought to challenge Japan’s decades-old control, despite the risk that an accident could spiral out of control”.[3]

Proposition two is that China’s more “sharp-elbowed” approach is driven by the government’s wish to divert public attention from China’s internal problems, notably slowing economic growth; not by actions of other states.

Proposition three is that China’s “bold, brash, and brazen” behaviour has prompted the United States’ recent high-profile “pivot to Asia” as it winds down wars in West and Central Asia. In the words of an International Herald Tribune report, “the United States forges ahead with efforts to counter China’s influence in Asia…”, now welcomed in by previously more ambivalent allies. “In both Japan and South Korea, the perception of China has changed to being a threat and that has made the U.S. seem much more favourable as a source of security…”.[4] The allies are also expanding security ties with each other “as a way to offset China’s growing presence…. But analysts say Japan will need to reverse a decline in military spending before Washington is convinced Tokyo is doing enough to keep China’s aspirations in check”.[5]

We should be suspicious of a narrative that presents the US and China’s neighbors as innocent victims of China’s bullying. By presenting the US pivot to Asia as a response to the invitation from Asian countries worried by China, it obscures the US strategy of re-asserting hegemony over East Asia; it too easily elevates China in place of the Soviet Union as the looming external threat to peace-loving democracies, helping the leaders of those democracies to boost their internal support; and it too easily justifies a military build-up all around China, to the benefit of militaries everywhere.

Claims and Counter-claims of Sovereignty

The islands lie 120 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan, 200 nautical miles east of the Chinese mainland, and 200 miles southwest of the Japanese-controlled island of Okinawa.

Japan formally annexed the islands in 1895, claiming they were not in anybody’s ownership or effective control. The Chinese government rejects the annexation as illegitimate. It claims that it had possession of the islands for 500 years before 1895, as charted on Chinese maps and recorded in Chinese ships’ logs. More specifically, records of Chinese tributary-system missions to ordain the kings of the Ryukyu kingdom (covering islands in the chain from southwest Japan to northeast Taiwan, of which Okinawa is the largest) state that the Diaoyu/Senkaku are on the Chinese side of the boundary between the two entities.

China says that the Imperial Japanese military seized the islands in its defeat of the Chinese military in the first Sino-Japanese war of 1894-5. Hence the islands should be returned to “China” (with ambiguity as to the government of the mainland or the government of Taiwan) as part of the post-1945 return of territories seized by Imperial Japan.

Japan counter-claims that the fact that Chinese maps presented the islands as Chinese and that Chinese ships visited gave no legal basis for ownership. The only other basis for ownership, other than annexation, is to have people there, which China did not. So Japan’s annexation in 1895 is determining. Furthermore, for the first 75 years of Japan’s control, from 1890 to the late 1960s (when evidence came to hand of undersea oil deposits nearby), China made no complaints about Japanese control.

Until 2010 the two governments left the settlement of their mutually exclusive claims undefined. This was the agreement that came out of the diplomatic recognition and friendship talks between the government of Japan and Zhou Enlai in 1972 and again Deng Xiaoping in 1978, who famously suggested that contentious issues like Senkaku should be “left to the wiser heads of later generations”.

However, the government of Japan denies that there ever was such an agreement, and the Japanese government’s official records of Premier Tanaka’s normalisation talks with Zhou Enlai in 1972 do not mention it. The China side replies that the memoirs of Tanaka’s personal assistant (who attended the talks) say that the agreement was made, as do accounts of the Chinese representatives. Moreover Japan’s silence on the issue of sovereignty of the islands for almost twenty years after Deng’s announcement of the agreement in his 1978 visit to Japan can be interpreted as an implicit recognition of the agreement.

In practice, Japan accepted the islands’ limbo state and did not try to colonize them, exercising “practical control” only by shooing away non-Japanese fishing boats.

The Current Dispute

The current dispute began in 2010 when the Japanese government arrested a Chinese fishing boat in defiance of the Fisheries Agreement not to apply domestic laws to trespassing fishermen, and proposed to put the captain on trial. This provoked an unexpectedly furious Chinese reaction, which stiffened the Japanese government’s determination not to appear weak in its dealings with China. Then in 2012 the right-wing nationalist Governor of Tokyo purchased the islands from their nominal owner, a Japanese citizen, and proposed to colonize them on his own behalf. To undercut him the government nationalized them – bought them as property of the Japanese state; in effect, asserted Japanese sovereignty. In China’s eyes, this broke the “later, wiser heads” agreement, and provoked widespread anti-Japanese riots, anti-Japanese consumer strikes, and suspension of diplomatic relations. The government of China felt compelled to assert its claims to sovereignty, or face humiliation in the eyes of its own public.

But much more than humiliation is at stake. China wants to wrestle sovereignty back, or at least restore the status quo ante of undefined sovereignty, for both military and economic reasons. It values the islands for their location in the “first island chain”, a string of islands south of Japan including Taiwan and smaller ones controlled by Vietnam and the Philippines. This first island chain currently prevents China’s ballistic submarine fleet from having unobserved access to the Pacific Ocean. If China controlled the Diaoyu/Senkaku, or if no-one did, that would give China a break in the chain. The islands also have value as a platform for radar and missiles in the event of a war between China and Japan; and may well be valuable for oil and gas in surrounding seas.

The US Pivot to Asia

These factors weight all the more on account of the really big recent change in China’s external environment: the US’s high-profile pivot from Europe and West and Central Asia to East Asia. The shift is open-ended, with no specification of what it means beyond “containing China” and boosting military alliances with China’s neighbors. It resumes the emerging strategy of the early years of the President George Bush Jnr years, when the US identified China as a “strategic rival”. But after 9/11 the US became pre-occupied with Central and West Asia and needed China’s help in the “war on terror”. The US diversion allowed China 10 more years of Deng’s strategy of building strength in a hidden way, avoiding confrontations.

In his first term, when the US was still mired in West Asia and Afghanistan, Obama tried to enlist China as junior partner in a “G2”, only to be rebuffed. As the US began to withdraw from West and Central Asia and wind down the war on terror, it elevated China as the new threat to world peace. Hence Obama’s first overseas trip after re-election was to Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia, after which he announced that they were potential “military allies”, as though in expectation of another war. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton also made a long swing through East and Southeast Asia; and senior US defence officials have done the same. None has visited China, at least not publicly.

The US administration also announced the deployment of naval forces closer to China — the 7th Fleet in the West Pacific and the 5th Fleet to the south of China; stationing of Marines in Australia; and opening of new drone bases in several Southeast Asian locations. (Imagine if China announced military alliances with Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico, Costa Rica.)

All this looks like a US-led strategy to “contain” the rise of China, in Chinese eyes. What is more, the noose being constructed around it is not just military. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) now under negotiation includes a long list of states on both sides of the Pacific: the US, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Australian, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam; with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, Laos, Colombia and Costa Rica as potential members. The key feature is that the US is included and China is excluded. Among the TPP’s membership criteria, countries must commit to free trade, and commit to dismantle sizable state-owned enterprises. The latter condition is tailor-made to justify China’s continued exclusion.

Japanese Politics

US subordinate allies, especially Japan, see the US’s “return to Asia” as a golden opportunity, maybe the last one, to assert their territorial claims vis-à-vis China. In Japan, some also see it as an opportunity to strengthen the Japan-US military relationship; for which purpose provoking China to hostile statements and actions is useful for securing public support for closer ties to the US, which could not otherwise be taken for granted. There has been a perennial conflict in the Japanese political and bureaucratic class between the “submissive to America” group and the “independent foreign policy” group; a conflict recently heightened by the success of the political party led by Shintaro Ishihara, which rails against what it sees as the Japanese nation’s servility to the US. However, both those who want closer US ties and those on the nationalist Right who do not, agree on the need to change the nation’s postwar Constitution to allow Japan’s military to undertake more than purely defensive combat; and therefore to increase military expenditure. The US is encouraging the government to increase its military spending, much of which would presumably be spent on US weapons systems.

Chinese strategists interpret Japan’s recent actions with respect to the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands as a move useful for both the “submissive to America” and the “independent foreign policy” groups. By breaking the pre-condition (sovereignty left undefined), the Japanese government provoked China to assert its claims, which could be presented to the Japanese public and the world as “aggression” – and made to justify both higher military spending and closer US ties.

China’s Humiliation in the Postwar Settlement

But China’s claims rest not only on the location and history of engagement with these particular rocks. They also rest on much further-reaching understanding of China’s engagement with the West since the Second World War, and the need to reassert a status which the West has consistently denied it. The core of the issue is the contradiction – in Chinese eyes – between the two treaties settling the Second World War in the East, the Potsdam Declaration and the Treaty of Peace with Japan, generally known as the Treaty of San Francisco.

The Potsdam Declaration (Declaration Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender) of 1945 set the terms of Japan’s unconditional surrender. It was issued jointly by the Allied powers – the US, Britain, and China (the Nationalist or Kuomintang government); and the Soviet Union later “adhered to” the declaration. The Japanese government explicitly accepted it. The declaration said that Japan should retain no overseas territories.

A later conference issued the Treaty of San Francisco in 1951, to mark the final settlement of the war in East Asia and the official end of the Allied (American) Occupation of Japan. The US excluded China from the conference, which by then was governed by the Chinese Communist Party. (The US also excluded the Nationalist government, then resident in Taiwan but still claiming to rule the mainland.) The treaty allocated to Japan hundreds of islands south of Japan, comprising the whole of Okinawa prefecture, including the Senkaku.

In China’s eyes the Treaty of San Francisco and its restoration of offshore islands to Japan is invalid, because (1) it broke the Potsdam Declaration – the foundation of the post-war order in East Asia — and (2) it resulted from a negotiation in which the government of China (one of the four Allied Powers) was not represented. None of the overseas territories seized by Imperial Japan, including the Senkaku, should have been restored to Japan.

In practice the US continued to administer the whole Okinawa island chain until it agreed to restore them to Japan’s control, in 1972. But neither in the Treaty nor subsequently did the US define the sovereignty of the Senkaku, leaving that to be decided later. However, at the time of the Treaty of San Francisco the US said – rather vaguely — that the US-Japan security treaty would cover the islands, implying that the US would come to their defence. Recently, with its pivot to Asia, the US clarified that the US-Japan treaty does cover the islands, which China interprets as a provocative move.

In short, China sees the Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute through the lens of a long pattern of Japan and the US breaking agreements, to China’s detriment; including the Treaty of San Francisco breaking the Potsdam Declaration, the Japanese government’s 2010 arrest of a Chinese fishing boat in defiance of the Fisheries Agreement, and the Japanese government’s 2012 unilateral claim to sovereignty over the islands, breaking the Tanaka-Zhou agreement of 1972.

In a civilized world both parties would agree to submit their claims to the International Court of Justice; but neither side is willing to consider such a move. Meanwhile, wisdom on the Chinese side lies in recognizing the truth of Joseph Nye’s point, “Unless China is able to attract allies by successfully developing its ‘soft power’, the rise in its ‘hard military’ and economic power is likely to frighten its neighbors, who will coalesce to balance its power”.[6] But political leaders and the media in the US and Japan also have a responsibility to act on Nye’s other point, “We should … ensure that China doesn’t feel encircled or endangered”. They are conspicuously failing in this respect.


[1], 24 November 2012

[2] Martin Fackler, “U.S. plans complicated by allies with uneasy ties”, International Herald Tribune, 22-23 Dec 2012, p.1 and 4.

[3] Brahma Chellaney, 2012, “East Asia’s defining moment”, International Herald Tribune, 22-23 December, p.8.

[4] Martin Fackler, 2012, p.4.

[5] Martin Fackler, 2012, p.4

[6] Joseph Nye, “Don’t try to ‘contain’ China”, International Herald Tribune, 28 January 2013, p.9.

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  1. Sara K.

    Ha, at least Taiwan is mentioned this time.

    Whenever I ask Taiwanese people what should be done with those islands, they always say ‘they belong to Taiwan!’ – as in, neither Japan nor China should control them. None of them have been able to give me a logical explanation for why this is so, it’s a purely emotional reaction – and these are Taiwanese people, I imagine the Japanese and Chinese are even more charged up about this.

    As far as the broader military situation, if China wants to prove that it does not intend to act aggressively towards its neighbors, I suggest them stop pointing missiles and other weapons at Taiwan, which is never in the forseeable future ever going to initiate military aggression against China. And yes, China was threatening Taiwan before the U.S. ‘pivot’, so I don’t buy that’s the cause of China’s aggression.

      1. Paul P

        It’s important that if, World War Three break out, it be about a couple of islands. BTW, can anyone tell me what was at stake that required the great powers to start the First World War?

        1. Nathanael

          In WWI? German upper-class arrogance was at stake, basically. Also Russian Imperial arrogance.

          The German arrogance proved to be very misplaced. So did the Russian Imperial arrogance.

        2. Tiercelet

          Well, there’s a bit more than just upper-class arrogance. Germany was terrified of having to fight a war on two fronts with France and Russia, so it adopted a plan (the Schlieffen Plan) which proposed that in any future conflict, Germany would use its superior rail networks to knock Russia out of any war before it could fully mobilize. Then the troops would turn around and attack France (by way of Belgium, but serves them right for being so inconveniently located). The plan was designed to prevent the stalemate of WWI.

          Of course, successful execution of the plan also involved being ready to go to war immediately and not waiting around for other states to mobilize during the negotiations — so when the whole Serbian-independence-Franz-Ferdinand thing happened, Germany couldn’t afford to wait around for the Triple Entente to dual-track the peace negotiations and war preparations. Germany had to pull the trigger or it’d be caught with its pants down while the French reclaimed Alsace. Which, as it happens, the French were actually planning to do.

          So basically WWI was a failure of communication and trust due to mismatches in communications speed and military initiative.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      From the post:

      Japan formally annexed the islands in 1895, claiming they were not in anybody’s ownership or effective control.

      And then, the author mentioned the Chinese claims.

      That’s almost like ‘the West is empty waiting for more white settlers.’

      Or ‘THere is no one in Palestine. It’s just sitting there, open for the lost children to return home.’

      Anyone think maybe the Ryukuans should have their own country?

      Anyone think those ‘Taiwanese’ should return Formosa, not to the Portuguese nor the Dutch, but to the aborigines whose island the ancestors of modern Hawaiians called home?

      1. Patty Uagon

        The majority inhabitants of Taiwan are Chinese, they speak Mandarin and/or Taiwanese which is basically Fujianese (aka Minanyu), a small number speak Hakka, but they’re ethnically Chinese whether they believe Taiwan should be an independent country or part of China (whether under the present regime or in the moribund pipe dream, still barely alive when I lived there, of “retaking” the mainland).

        As was pointed out the earlier, perhaps original inhabitants, were Polynesians. Now they’re called “mountain people” because the Chinese pushed them up into the mountains and then renamed them. Kind of like calling Native Americans “Indians.” As if, living on the island of Taiwan, one would rather struggle to scratch out a living in the mountains than live on the coast catching fish and drinking coconut milk!

        Since the islands are closest to Taiwan, they should be given to Taiwan, but that ain’t gonna happen.

  2. ambrit

    Like it or not, China is soon going to be a World Power. For various reasons, the Chinese have legitimate interests in acting like one. The U.S. had better drop its’ Imperial thinking and start applying some “Realpolitik” before the results of its’ delusional self image begin to bite deeply.
    If we couldn’t beat a group of fractious hill tribesmen in Afghanistan, how do we expect to beat China?
    Another thought is that, as with the West vs. Soviet phase of history, that conflict was played out in proxy wars between third parties. Whenever one or the other superpower itself moved against a third party, as in Hungary ’56, Czechoslovakia ’68, the Caribbean ad nauseum, the other superpower conspicuously restricted itself to arms length actions, or none at all. The thinking appears to have been; “The risk of MAD far outweighs the possible returns.” Opposing China directly in its’ own back yard meets the criteria set out above. If America isn’t careful, it may not end up in WWIII, but it definitely will experience something very much like WWII1/2.
    Beware the “Yellow Peril.” It’s sloppy thinking.

    1. jake chase

      I find it astonishing that anyone gives a rats ass about this pissing contest between two countries that have nothing but US Treasury Bills to show for 5000 years of history. Both Japan and China should worry more about the value of their financial assets. Japan should worry about its next nuclear meltdown, China about its next famine, perhaps about its next cultural revolution.

      And if they choose to blow one another up over this, that leaves more air, water, oil, etc. for the rest of us.

      My only concern is that some id*ot in the US State Dept will decide this is important, or that our defense industry will find some way to capitalize it.

      1. ambrit

        Mr Chase;
        Lots of so called third party p—— contests have escalated to major wars. Sarajevo was part of the Austro Hungarian vs. Serbian power contest. The trigger was an “anarchist” asassin. Whether a ‘lone gunman’ or dedicated Serbian team player, the result was the same: WWI. As another commenter has said, arrogance and elite thinking sowed the seeds of destruction. This present situation is rife with such sloppy and dangerous thinking. The real danger is that the U.S. views any Chinese move against Japan, as an affront to its’ own self. National egos are involved. When ego is involved, very often, logic goes out the window. That’s what I meant by the appeal for “Realpolitik.”

        1. jake chase

          I agree that the real danger is the reactive foolishness of our leaders in the so called defense establishment.

      2. Patty Uagon

        Nice summary of the type of racist, bigoted, narrow-minded arrogant thinking that’s gotten the US into so much trouble over the years (that is when our imperial wars, invasions, assassinations, funded coups etc haven’t succeeded).

        Yeah, all China and Japan have of any value is US T-Bills. Ever been to either place? I thought not. JC your comments are generally only 50% dreck, you get a solid 100 this time.

  3. russell1200

    The concern about holding onto the “empty” middle portions of the country were one of the reasons for the U.S. homestead acts (and presumably Canada’s as well). I gather that use it or lose it was the rule. So the 1895 Japanese grab is somewhat par for the course within the time frame.

    The First Sino-Japanese War was also going on at this time. So this all ties into the early Japanese colonial moves.

    Hopefully, the two sides can be reasonable.

    1. digi_owl

      Reasonable is the same as cowardly in the eyes of authoritarians. And all parties involved right now are all run by authoritarians…

  4. Varmin

    Two islets to China, two to Japan, one to Taiwan (alternatively: to me, for proposing this). Any gains from joint development to be shared in the same proportion. Problem solved.

    1. ScottS

      Did you miss the part about natural resources and military usefulness?

      I say give them to the goats. They were there first.

      1. Varmin

        Natural resources to be jointly exploited. Joint exercises for the military boys. Peace. It’s better for trade.

        1. Patty Uagon

          Capital idea! If only someone would propose it in front of the UN, though it would no doubt sink like a stone in the South China Sea.

  5. Jessica

    “In a civilized world”, control over huge underwater resources would not be riding on a winner-take-all contest over some uninhabited rocks.
    We would have an international conference and hammer out an agreement divvying up those resources among all the parties. Then each country could wave the theoretical value of its share as a banner to satisfy its hawks at home. (In both the Chinese and Japanese cases, those hawks are deliberately inflamed for domestic political purposes.)
    That the US is not pushing something like this says a lot about American government motivations.

  6. GermanQR

    Fantastic summary of the historical and stretegic aspects of the conflict by Prof. Wade.

    Kudos to NC for cross-posting it here. Thank you Y.

  7. Max424

    Yves: “One of my good buddies was predicting in the mid 1990s that [the Diaoyu and Senkaku islands] would be the casus belli for World War III.”

    That’s a pretty good tea leaf reading right there.*

    I myself always thought that the War to End All Wars, World War Three, would begin with a technical malfunction. A nuke would explode out of its paddock, or rocket out the underside of a jet wing, as a result a blown fuse, or something.

    But that can no longer happen, as the Cold War has ended.

    *The submarine factor alone is huge. If I was China, and my only defense against an American Nuclear First Strike was my subs, for sure, I’d want them to be able to slip undetected into the deep and wide Pacific.

      1. Max424

        I don’t think the threat of a little fallout radiation would deter the Land of the Rising Poisons one bit.

        China would build slave-wage factories on the islands regardless, if they thought it would serve a purpose.

        And it probably would. Numerous cheap Chinese toy factories on the Diaoyu and Senkaku chains would imply possession, and possession is nine/tenths of international law –or so I’m told.

        1. Paul W

          Doubtless American consumers would be queueing up at WalMart to buy those toys, approved as healthy by the appropriate US regulator.

        2. Hypothetical_Taxpayer

          Well, sure, Japs like radiation. I was a little concerned about the goats on the island, but goat sacrifice is a time honored tradition, I guess.

          What concerns China? Depends on how strong their “Toys For Us” policy is, I imagine. Or they may decide a radioactive island is too risky for anyone but military personnel and put a nuke missile base there. Law of Unintended Consequences, maybe.

          1. Patty Uagon

            Once again the intransigent racism of even “liberal” and “educated” Euro-Americans raises its ugly head. “Japs” like radiation? Yeah, about as much as Ragheads, Coons, Honkies, Yids, WOPs, Wetbacks, Redskins and their Squaws, and don’t forget Chinks and Gooks while you’re at it. Sheesh.

            As a long-term resident of various “Oriental” countries I can testify that the racist superiority complex among Euro-Americans vis-a-vis modest Asians is as ingrained as ever. If anything the younger generation flooding SE Asia is in many ways worse (less aware) then the prior generation to which I belong.

            The nuclear tragedy playing out in Japan is no more due to “Japs” liking radiation than it is to Americans liking it, since that’s where the know-t-be-faulty (by the Americans) reactor designs came from. One could argue, if anything, that Americans–I mean Septic Tanks–like their radiation better than anyone else, as long as it’s being dropped, sprayed, or shot onto or into others, especially if they belong to a country or race with a snappy derogatory moniker.

          2. Patty Uagon

            Now that I’ve calmed down a bit—whew—I regret ranting with the use of the despicable racial slurs in my comment, it was meant to illustrate that apparently acceptable words like “Japs” (which I see all to often on the web) are offensive to many people, and not just Japanese.

            That relates to my comment elsewhere in the comments to this entry that there’s much more racism towards Asians than is acknowledged or realized by otherwise progressive and well-meaning people. Since I spend much of my time in Asia it’s painfully obvious and all the more insidious for being, again, mostly unacknowledged. Needless to say it also taints all political relations and influences policies.

        3. Mel

          Well you couldn’t put numerous cheap Chinese toy factories on those islands. According to Google Maps, of the two big ones, one is under two miles long and half a mile wide; the other is redacted, but from the size of the blot it takes to wipe it out it can’t be much bigger. Even if you could downsize the Chinese, per Kurt Vonnegut’s _Slapstick_, the toys would be bigger than that. And logistics would be disastrous. As people say downthread, it’s about oil. Apropos of which, Frank Herbert’s _Dragon in the Sea_ (aka _Under Pressure_, and maybe a third title as well.)

          1. rotter

            “logistics”???? you HAVE to be joking. If anyone were concerned about the “logistics” of locating all of the wests manufaturing 3000-5000 miles away from the markets for that garbage (not to mention the landfill dumps), then It never would have happened that way. As a matter of fact, there is no doubt some scumbag american capital management company at this very moment,pitching the idea of relocating a factory to those islands – “and you can use political prisoners for labor!” says mitt romney, “just chain’em to the machinery, that’ll be a thumb in the eye of those meddesome japs”

    1. Mark P.

      ‘I myself always thought that the War to End All Wars, World War Three, would begin with a technical malfunction. A nuke would explode out of its paddock…But that can no longer happen, as the Cold War has ended.’

      Pretty to think so. But unless my irony meter is malfunctioning, my friend, you are seriously naive. There are arguably more nuclear weapons systems out there than ever

      We and the Russians still have large stocks of thermonuclear ordinance — and physical systems that can malfunction — as we did during the Cold War. And there have been accidents since the collapse of the USSR — as there were during it — when everything could have gone globally pear-shaped.

      For example, in 1995 a Norwegian rocket registered on the Russian systems as a nuclear attack and then-President Boris Yeltsin opened up the nuclear football (their version of the nuclear briefcase) in readiness for a counter-attack. Fortunately, Yeltsin wasn’t very drunk that day.

      Overall, there’ve been at least a hundred documented incidents that could have escalated into serious nuclear accidents, potentially triggering something worse.

      Relatively speaking, too, the US and the USSR/Russia know what they’re doing. Nowadays, seven other nuclear states exist out there in the world.

      This includes Pakistan, which is building the things as fast as possible and keeps them on a hair-trigger “launch-on-warning” status — and if you think the US has this situation under control, one of the revelations of Assange’s State Department Wikileaks was the US ambassador to Pakistan freaking out about how out-of-control the Pakistanis’ bomb-building was getting.

      1. Max424

        A terrific irony meter malfunction, ‘fraid to say.

        I’m the guy on the blog that believes nuclear war is 10 times more likely now, than it ever was during the Cold War.

        For many of the reasons you described above, but mostly because, the United States officially scrapped the ABM treaty –and with it, the stabilizing MAD principle– in 2002, and now BRAZENLY seeks first strike capabilities over its opponents.

        1. Mark P.

          ‘I’m the guy on the blog that believes nuclear war is 10 times more likely now, than it ever was during the Cold War.’

          Ah, well. Then we’re somewhat in agreement.

          Interestingly, among the old Cold War deterrence theorists, the game theory school — I’ve had the chance to speak to Thomas Schelling and Martin Shubik — tends to the same view. For the obvious game theory reasons: in an n-player game, MAD becomes exponentially more unstable with each new player.

          You write: “the United States officially scrapped the ABM treaty –and with it, the stabilizing MAD principle– in 2002, and now BRAZENLY seeks first strike capabilities over its opponents.”

          The fact is, neither MAD nor the U.S. nuclear deterrent much helps the US strategically in today’s world. Aside from the obvious Republicans and dinosaurs, most sensible folks in the U.S. military (not an oxymoron) grasp this. So does the rest of the world. You probably overrate the effects of what the US says about its nuclear weapons — for instance, scrapping the ABM treaty — in today’s world.

          In other words, the future of nuclear deterrence lies with states like North Korea and Syria, who need them in order to deter the US, which can otherwise flatten almost any other state using conventional forces. Conversely, the U.S. gets very little traction from its “nuclear umbrella.” It tried that in the 1990s as official doctrine —

          “Essentials of Post Cold War Deterrence” (1995)

          –and learned the hard way that it was stupid.

  8. JustAnotherPoster

    Or, you could just leave them to the goats, who have obviously exercised “sovereignty,” aka squatters rights. Silly humans thinking that they “own” everything they see and then killing/subjugating/consuming everything in the process. One can only hope earth disowns humans before long and restores the natural order.

    1. could be anyone

      If you sit quietly and listen really closely, after attuning yourself to goat speak you can make out their words to silly egotistical humans unmistakably: f-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-ck you! Smart animals, them goats.

  9. Richard Kline

    Well finally, a comprehensive, _accurate_ summary of the historical and practical political economy of the East Asian near abroad by Prof. Wade. We hear so much pureed propgandistic crap in the press on this region and the issues, I’m shocked to actually hear a valid appraisal.

    I’ve not stated a position here before, but for the record Japan has no basis for claims of possession _even to Okinawa_, an overseas conquest, let alone any part of the East China Sea. China was defeated and militarily prostrate four generations ago and lost control of an area which they had historically dominated. The region was awarded to Japan in 1951 by foregin ‘great powers’ when China was excluded from negotiations, and hence China is in no way bound by the status quo. Possession is 99/100ths, especially when it’s backed up by a hyper-agressive, nuclear armed power regularly motoring its nuclear armed warboats closer to China then the Bahamas are to the US, or China would long since have reoccupied the area. From the standpoint of ‘who’s right?’ all the weight is with China on this. That’s not as much the case further south, but here, yes.

    Wade: “This first island chain currently prevents China’s ballistic submarine fleet from having unobserved access to the Pacific Ocean.” This is in many respects as important as the sovereignty issue. The overt military strategic program of the US is to dominate all sea lanes leading from China to choke off Chinese resource delivery, commerce, and military maneuverability _at complete US discretion_. The US would love to treat China now exactly as it is treating Iran right now. The Chinese are extremely well aware of that, and have invested a great deal of time, money, planning, and diplomatic capital to punch such a cordon as full of functional holes as possible. It is essential for China’s security to be able to defeat such ‘blockade’ strategy. The more idiots in the US look to advance such a program in the future, the more assertive the Chinese will be in showing that they can, and will, break that blockade. And again, the Chinese are in the right. There is no international consensus, authorizing declaration, treaty, provision, or any such that grants any power, the US included, any right to ‘police’ China’s sovereign actions and freedom to use the seas as others do. Consider if China embarked on an intensive patrolling and intervention within a hundred miles of the entire west coast of the United States with a clear strategic intent to blockade US sea lanes at Chinese discretion if the US didn’t ‘behave.’ No one here would accept that, or be comfortable with that.

    The ‘China shouldn’t point it’s arms at X’ statements are potent nonesense. The US has invaded, fought over, covertly intervened in, back coups in, or otherwise assaulted or supported gross repression in practically every country bordering China over the last two generations (to say nothing of many others). China’s record of interventions is much less extensive, and the reasons have been for the most part of direct national security (historical expansionism nothwithstanding). The real issue here is that China’s neighbors are too small to easily defend themselves yet too disunited and mutually hostile to form a functioning alliance of their own in counterweight, and so need a big stick behind them. Essentially, all the others are pointing fingers at China to justify calling for back-up to increase their bargaining position. China isn’t necessarily ‘a nice guy,’ but hostile intent is assumed and announced in the absence of any real evidence of that. It is in the interest of other neighboring states to negotiate and stick to a modus vivendi: they are explicitly NOT doing that, because the terms wouldn’t be as favorable as playing off Big Country Far against Big Country near.

    The US ‘pivot to Asia’ is less a farce then a fabric of whole cloth. What we have is a) a machination to keep the massively excessive funding for the US military-industrial complex justified, and b) provide electoral angles and game points for US domestic policy. And c) gross cultural arrogance bordering on and really passing the threshhold of racism. China isn’t ‘about to be a world power,’ China HAS BEEN AND IS a world power for longer then the US had Europeans occupying it. Attempts to negotiate a G2 with China subordinated to US interests aren’t just insulting, their assinine. There is now way the Chinese, would, should, or could accept that. Who or what the Chinese mean as competitors, collaborators, or inspirers for the American people isn’t something that’s defined because China has been unnaturally withheld from world affairs due to internal collapse and the worst and most violent foreign assault and occupation any country has endured in recent centuries _not a syllable of which ever enters into any self-centered American discourse on ‘China’s place’ in a liywhite world’_.

    Americans simply don’t have anything useful or interesting to say _about_ China until they start talking about the China of Chinese experience and stop talking about the China of American fantasticism. Negotiations on a fair basis would be a good starting point, but the US doesn’t engage in fair negotiations as equals with non-whites, not that the American press bothers to notice that cultural imperialsim. But believe you me, folks, the Chinese are _very well aware_ of how the American power structure views them, and act in defense of their own interets informed in the light of that knowledge.

    Want a better China? Stop threatening them regularly and start treating them better. I won’t guarantee the results, but the results going the other way WILL be worse, that is a certainty.

    1. Jessica

      “I’ve not stated a position here before, but for the record Japan has no basis for claims of possession _even to Okinawa_, an overseas conquest, let alone any part of the East China Sea.”

      One step too far.
      Even before the invasion and conquest in the 1800s, the Okinawans were closely related to the Japanese and spoke a language closely related to Japanese (about as close as Swiss German or Bavarian to High German). In that sense, the relationship between Okinawa and Japan is similar to that between Taiwan and China.
      But in addition, Okinawa has been in continuous Japanese possession, except when occupied by the US, which has renounced any claim to Okinawa, since the 1870s.
      Taiwan on the other hand, since 1895, has only been even arguably under control of the mainland Chinese government from 1945 through 1949 and that is arguable given that the mainland Chinese government was in the process then of losing control of the mainland. Remember that the ROC Army had to kill tens of thousands of Taiwanese in order to take control.
      So Japan has twice the claim to Okinawa that the PRC has to Taiwan. There is also the small matter that if you had a referendum, Okinawans would vote overwhelmingly to be part of Japan, but how it would turn out in Taiwan is anyone’s guess. Especially if a referendum could be held on Taiwan free of the threat of PRC military attack.
      Actually, the Japanese claim to Okinawa is about on a level to the US claim to California or Texas.
      The Northern Territories is an entirely different matter. Japan is utterly in the wrong on that one.

      The Chinese have historically been wronged many times and their side of things is not presented in the mainstream media accurately. But in the past 5-10 years, neighbors like Thailand and Vietnam, which had been content to ride on China’s coattails, have become wary of China. I don’t see that as the US’s doing. Which is to say that even though it is true that the US is lining up its next excuse for a state of permanent militarization, that does not necessarily make the Chinese angels.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef


        I looked up Wiki and found this under Ryukyuan languages:

        The Ryukyu Islands were populated from Mainland Japan in the first millennium CE, and since then relative isolation from the mainland allowed the Ryukyuan languages to diverge significantly from Japanese.

        Whereas under Taiwanese Hokkienese, I found this:

        Taiwanese Hokkien is generally similar to Amoy. Minor differences only occur in terms of vocabulary. Like Amoy, Taiwanese Hokkien is based on a mixture of Zhangzhou and Quanzhou speech. Due to the mass popularity of Hokkien entertainment media from Taiwan, Taiwanese Hokkien has grown to become the more influential Hokkien dialect of Min Nan, especially since the 1980s. Along with Amoy, the Taiwanese prestige dialect (based on the Tâi-lâm variant) is regarded as ‘standard Hokkien.

        I also found this, under History of the Ryukyu Islands:

        Hostility against mainland Japan increased in the Ryūkyūs immediately after its annexation to Japan. Japan introduced modern institutions, based on Western models, including public education using standard Japanese. This increased the number of Japanese language speakers on the islands, creating a link with the mainland. When Japan became the dominant power of the Far East, many Ryūkyūans were proud of being citizens of the Empire. However, there was always an undercurrent of dissatisfaction for being treated as second class citizens. For example, during an earlier part of the Meiji era, Japan offered Miyako and Yaeyama islands to the Qing Dynasty in exchange for treaty concessions, though the negotiation eventually failed.

        I also found this from Wiki about the Imperial Japense Army killing Taiwanese, from the movie, Warriors of the Rainbow, Which I would recommend:

        The film Seediq Bale depicts the Wushe Incident, which occurred near Qilai Mountain of Taiwan under Japanese rule. Mona Rudao, a chief of Mahebu village of Seediq people, led warriors fighting against the Japanese.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Also this bit from Wiki, Ryukyuan languages:

          Although the Ryukyuan languages have sometimes been considered to be dialects of Japanese, they are not mutually intelligible with Japanese or even with each other.

          I get the sense that while Japanese and Ryukyuan languages are in the same Japonic language family, which consists of only those two subdivisions, they are not that close related, perhpas close only in the sense that there are only just two subdisivions.

          1. Jessica

            When I was in Okinawa, I could understand about half the dialect that I was exposed to (as a fluent speaker of standard Tokyo Japanese). One sentence, I could understand fine, the next one sounded more like Korean than Japanese. (That dialect had a final “l” sound that is common in Korean but non-existent in Japanese.)
            That is why I would compare it with Austro-Bavarian German “dialects”. In both cases, linguists often consider them separate, although related languages, but since they are not the official language of any nation, non-linguists call them dialects. There is a technical definition of the distinction between language and dialect, but the practical one is as someone said “a language is a dialect with an army”.
            In my experience in Taipei, I hear very little Taiwanese any more. Almost all Mandarin. In 1980 though, the older folks all still could speak Japanese and I only heard Mandarin spoken by the folks who had come over in the late 1940s.
            Until the Mandarinization of the past few decades, yes the Taiwanese spoke a form of Chinese similar to that spoken on the mainland nearby. Both that was not a dialect of Mandarin, but a distinct language. At least as different from Mandarin as most Ryukyuan dialects were from Tokyo Japanese (hyojungo).
            When we say “Chinese” in the West, unless we mean specifically Mandarin Chinese, we are not talking about one language with dialects, but a language family with at least 4 or 5 major languages, each having their own dialects. I think those languages are as different from each other as the Germanic languages (High German, Dutch, Swiss German, Bavarian, the Scandinavian languages, English) are from each other. More different from each other than the Romance languages.
            And just to have said it, if the Okinawan or Taiwanese people wanted to be independent or anything else, I would support that. But in my experience in Okinawa, I never got the sense that that was something they would consider too seriously. In Taiwan, obviously it is the political topic so dangerous (because of the Beijing government) that there is much interest and much tip-toeing.

          2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            It is ironic when we say Chinese we mean Mandarin Chinese.

            Again, from Wiki, under Hokkien dialect:

            Variants of Hokkien dialects can be traced to two sources of origin: Quanzhou and Zhangzhou. Both Amoy and Taiwanese are based on a mixture of Quanzhou and Zhangzhou dialects, while the rest of the Hokkien dialects spoken in South East Asia are either derived from Quanzhou and Zhangzhou, or based on a mixture of both dialects.

            During the Three Kingdoms period of ancient China, there was constant warfare occurring in the Central Plain of China. Northerners began to enter into Fujian region, causing the region to incorporate parts of northern Chinese dialects. However, the massive migration of northern Han Chinese into Fujian region mainly occurred after the Disaster of Yongjia. The Jìn court fled from the north to the south, causing large numbers of northern Han Chinese to move into Fujian region. They brought the old Chinese — spoken in Central Plain of China from prehistoric era to 3rd century — into Fujian. This then gradually evolved into the Quanzhou dialect.

            Hokkien has one of the most diverse phoneme inventories among Chinese languages, with more consonants than Standard Mandarin or Cantonese. Vowels are more or less similar to that of standard Mandarin. Hokkien dialects retain many pronunciations that are no longer found in other Chinese dialects. These include the retention of the /t/ initial, which is now /tʂ/ (Pinyin ‘zh’) in Mandarin (e.g. ‘bamboo’ 竹 is tik, but zhú in Mandarin), having disappeared before the 6th century in other Chinese dialects.[4]

            Quite a few words from the variety of Old Chinese spoken in the state of Wu (where the ancestral language of Min and Wu dialect families originated and which was likely influenced by the Chinese spoken in the state of Chu which itself was not founded by Chinese speakers), and later words from Middle Chinese as well, have retained the original meanings in Hokkien, while many of their counterparts in Mandarin Chinese have either fallen out of daily use, have been substituted with other words (some of which are borrowed from other languages while others are new developments), or have developed newer meanings. The same may be said of Hokkien as well, since some lexical meaning evolved in step with Mandarin while others are wholly innovative developments.

            So, it would seem that Hokkien is more ‘Chinese’ than Mandarin Chinese. Perhaps it’s closer to the Chinese spoken by Confucius than Mandarin Chinese.

          3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            I don’t know what they speak there, but I find it surprising that you hear very little Taiwanese any more in Taipei.

            Again from Wiki, under Hokkien dialects:

            In 1990s, marked by the liberalization of language development and mother tongue movement in Taiwan, Taiwanese Hokkien had undergone a fast pace in its development. In 1993, Taiwan became the first region in the world to implement the teaching of Taiwanese Hokkien in Taiwanese schools. In 2001, the local Taiwanese language program was further extended to all schools in Taiwan, and Taiwanese Hokkien became one of the compulsory local Taiwanese languages to be learned in schools.[18] The mother tongue movement in Taiwan even influenced Xiamen (Amoy) to the point that in 2010, Xiamen also began to implement the teaching of Hokkien dialect in its schools.[19] In 2007, the Ministry of Education in Taiwan also completed the standardization of Chinese characters used for writing Hokkien and developed Tai-lo as the standard Hokkien pronunciation and romanization guide. A number of universities in Taiwan also offer Hokkien degree courses for training Hokkien language talents to work for the Hokkien media industry and education. Taiwan also has its own Hokkien literary and cultural circles whereby Hokkien poets and writers compose poetry or literature in Hokkien on a regular basis.

            Maybe one day, I will visit and find out myself.

          4. Yves Smith Post author

            To add to Jessica’s point, notice that she mentions Tokyo Japanese. That is no accident.

            The regional variations in Japanese are significant. Not as large as the large differences she points out in Chinese “dialects” or the Germanic languages, but still pretty large. She can probably amplify better, but (and I am sure this is no long true in the UK), when I went to York, when I was speaking to anyone other than professionals and high end service staff (as in locals who talked like locals) I could not understand what they were saying. Very heavy accents and considerable use of idiom. My understanding is Japanese in the Kansai (west, like around Osaka) has significant differences in standard usage as well as accent.

      2. Richard Kline

        So Jessica, I would say contra your remarks you’ve stopped two steps short. I am well aware of the linguistic and ethnic similarities between the Ryukyuans and some of the Japanese. But one has to peel the history back further. Something which is not well grasped is that ‘Japan’ is in fact a conquest state. An ethnic and culturally specific population which was functionally Korean (as we now understand things) invaded the main islands of Japan from the mainland within recorded history, and gradually, quite brutally, overran the indigenous population(s) of the islands. The culture which we see as ‘Japanese’ or Nihonjin is what was brought and since elaborated by those conquerors. Well, the folks that were conquered had no desire to be ruled by the Japanese, or to be forcibly culturally assimilated, but that’s what happened. The Ryukyuans, as it happens, are ethnically the same as the indigenous population of south and central Japan pre-invasion. (Northern Japan was and still has present a rather different non-Japanese population). The linguistics are somewhat unclear, as the language indigenous to Japan pre-conquest is not attested, and so has to be inferred.

        The main point here is that the Ryukyuans are NOT ‘Japanese.’ There were conquered and culturally assimilated. Now, the history of that conquest is longer than I spoke to, yes. ‘Japanese’ groups from Japan had made several occupations and attempts on the Rkyukyus over time, specifically in th 1500s—and were actively fought by the Ryukyuans who wanted no such rapacious overlords. Japan had in fact seized some of this area, but essentially withdrew after the closure of Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate. The modern control of the Ryukyus dates from teh 1870s, and was achieved by unilateral military occupation and nonconsensual annexation. So yes, Japan ‘has rights’ to Okinawa and most of the Ryukyus from that time in much the same way Britain ‘has rights’ to Ulster—might makes right in the nationbuilding business, hey?

        Would Okinawa vote ‘for independence’ if that was on offer? Well it isn’t, and it won’t be. And if so, the Okinawans would have to worry about functional dominance by the Chinese, so in that case, yes, I suspect they would prefer to be screwed over by the Japanese instead. Which they are, see the ongoing issues with American occupation of Okinawa. And somehow Japan can’t get any balls stiffened about it’s ‘sovereignty’ with regard to American misuse of Okinawa, rhetoric despite, but is in a fizzy-tizzy with China over islands nobody gave a damn for until political issues needed an excuse. It is patent that Japan has ‘manufactured’ the present issue. Why is a matter for informed pundits, but this entire spat is a deliberate creation of Japanese policy makers, and it is inconceivable that the issue would have been pursued without American interests in the matter. The whole matter is, on the face of it, a deliberate provocation of China ‘to show everybody who those guys really are,’ and give the excuse to policies that other powers wanted to pursue anyway. Evil great gaming in my view.

        Regarding the matter of Taiwan, continuous possession by the mainland has fluctuated, yes, because historically the island was far from anything that mattered to the governments of China. However, mainland Chinese governments have occupied the island multiple times over the last 1500 years, and the island was by any definition part of China’s sphere of influence. Yes, the indigenous Taiwanese didn’t and don’t like that. That said, the substantial majority of Taiwan’s populations have been ethnic South Chinese with a tiny number of Hakka for hundreds of years. Whether or not a Chinese central governmennt bothered to assert governance over the island, is was certainly seen as ‘theirs,’ even when various European interlopers plopped their flag posts down there at times. Saying anything else is misrepresenting the situation with legalisms. China has certainly been materially involved in Taiwan and the East China Sea _far longer and more effectively_ than the Japanese have been in control of the Northern Ryukyus . . . except during the last century when China was attacked, occupied, in collapse, and riddled by civil war. Everyone seems to want their image of China as weak and inefficatious to endure without recognizing how historically anomalous, inaccurate, and extreme that image is in fact.

        Jessica: ” . . . [I]n the past 5-10 years, neighbors like Thailand and Vietnam, which had been content to ride on China’s coattails, have become wary of China.” I don’t think that you are truly engaged with the politics of all this here. Vietnam has NEVER been content with China as a neighbor. The two fought a war thirty years ago, which Vietnam flatly won. The southerners know the Chinese loathe them and will look for payback when opportune. The two states have had continuous rivalries over oceanic territories in the South China Sea and their near shore waters; very real, dangerous, and material territorial disputes where no one is really right and both (all) parties mean to win. Vietname has been and remains a minor economic rival to China on taking in offshore manufacturing from other locations and etc.; for instance, Japan put major money into Vietnam _before_ mainland China opened to Japanese investment, only to cool down those efforts to get into China (likely a Chinese pre-condition though this has never really been discussed publicly). In short, _nothing_ has ‘changed’ in the Vietnamese-Chinese relationship at all—except that a US-Vietnamese rapproachement has allowed the US to claim (inaccurately) that Vietnam is in ‘our’ column.

        Thailand’s government is joined at the waist with the American CIA-security apparatus, and has been since the 1950s. Nothing has changed there. Thailand has no interest in China one way or the other, and the extent to which those there are making anti-China postures it is completely a function of US puppeteering in my view, and understood by all participants except the media and the public. As for the US claiming Burma as a US gain, what a load of drivel. Burma is China’s closest ALLY, both in SE Asia and likely period.

        And on and on. There is just so much nonsense printed about all this. The real constant is that the US wants to construct a more functional ‘NATO-like’ set of dependencies to contain China and use as leverage. But it won’t work. Only the weakest or most vulnerable of those states on the frontline—S Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam—have territorial issues and historical experiences that would make them risk any kind of political deep freeze or militarized confrontation US backing, since most, and perhaps all of those states would lose and lose severely any actual military confrontation if push came to shove over ‘something.’ That coalition and the US are not strong enough to defeat or contain China. The others have no interests at stake worth the risk, and would sit it out if not attacked, which they won’t be. It’s the best hand the US can play if we want to play this stupid game, and playing it exacts costs on the Chinese. But it’s not a winning hand.

        Taiwan is completely economically embedded with the mainland, and is not going to join ANY war or confrontation against China from this point on. This is something the punditocracy doesn’t get: the situation on Taiway has _materially changed in a major way_ over the last 20 years. In fact, a significant impetus for the US to ratched upt it’s dubious containment policy is EXACTLY because Taiwan is likely lost as an American asset in a real confrontation coing forward. Sure, the Taiwanese would like to continue their special status as long as they can; autonomy is a great deal, especially when ‘the Party’ can put you away and seize your wealth at any time onshore. If I was guessing, I’d guess that Taiwan would declare itself ‘neutral’ in the event of a real flare up, a status it would be in the interest of both China and the US to accept likely, but strategically a major net gain for China. Taiwan is by no means certainly in the US orbit at this point, and American policymakers are understandably anxious about what amounts to a major strategic erosion of America’s options. China’s recruiting economic partners throughout South America and Africa has far more potential. China seems to being a very effective diplomatic and economic penetration of Central Asia as well, something of tremendous strategic importance if achieved. The press natters endlessly about a pair of islands while missing most of what matters as the world turns . . . .

        1. XYZ

          I’m pretty sure that most of what we’re seeing here is string-pulling by Washington. There’s a reason for this Administration’s unprecedented crackdown on leaks, and for the panic that CableGate caused. And going by the fury against Wikileaks amongst large sections of the public, there are quite a few people out there who can see fully well what’s really going on but feign ignorance or skepticism, relying on the “plausible deniability” provided them by the secrecy regime.

    2. ABC123

      Want a better China? Stop threatening them regularly and start treating them better. I won’t guarantee the results, but the results going the other way WILL be worse, that is a certainty.

      Good point. Better point: Want a better WORLD? Stop threatening IT regularly and start treating it better. Silly humans, walking around assuming we can OWN everything, as if everything we see can be denominated in a “currency.” It can’t.

  10. Norman

    It doesn’t matter what we think, the idiots who are running things are going to do what ever it is they want. So far, Dr. Strangelove has been absent, but, . . . . . . . . . who knows?

  11. Paul W

    Excellent article! Nice to have some informational background, instead of the usual propaganda.

    Personally I’d take some Chinese elbows over the West’s annual policy of starting a new war. Why are we always on the wrong side? Or, why do we allow our morally bankrupt politicians to represent us and continually put us on the wrong side? And why do so many of us support our mafioso governments? Chiang Kai-Shek and the Green Gang now reside in the White House!

    Is it just me or does it all have a 1913 feel to it? British Empire containing a rising Germany. That strategy was a real winner!

  12. craazyman

    These islands have a third party with a legitimate claim. I am a direct descendent of Rothopolitus Meretorious Tremens 4th Earl of Magonia who laid claim to these piles of rocks on his 3rd voyage of discovery in 1653.

    The Earl’s legal right is unquestionably defensible in many treaties entered into by the Magonian Council over a period of 4 centuries. This is not a matter of dispute or contumenlacious controversy.

    On or about June 3, as soon as our sailing voyage in the 28 foot ship Abogard across the Pacific is complete, I will be formally raise the flag of Magonia — a space alien face against a dark blue solid background about the same color as the summer sky at 8 pm — on these rocks and inhabit a UFO shaped central headquarters and castle and diplomatic outpost.

    If the Chinese or Japanese wish to negotiate with me, I will not comply. These islands are and always were Magonian territory. All are welcome to visit us and lay around and do nothign, as long as they don’t have ambition or do anything but waste time and contemplate reality. I will offer conflict resolution services from the island headquarters if they wish to resolve their disagreements.

    Sincerely yours,
    D. Tremens, 7th Earl of Magonia, Emeritus, Esquire and GED

    1. Hypothetical_Taxpayer

      Ya, just when you thought the world couldn’t get any crazier, we get the Cubasan Missle Crisis.

      Then along come MMT Abe in Japan who thinks Japan needs to build a military-industrial complex to fight unemployment and deflation. What if we find out in 10 years that Japan actually makes defense stuff that works? Will Lockheed-Boeing-Raytheon-Northrup-Grumman outsource all their defense contacts to Japan so the US can defend Japans’ oil supply in the Midde East? Gawd, I hope not.

      We need Dr. Tremens to nip this madness at the bud.

    2. Max424

      Are you sure you’re only the 7th Earl, Tremens?

      Seems to be some gaps in the chronology. The 4th Earl, Rothopolitus, was doing his thing some three and half centuries ago, yet we are to accept you stand before us today only two Earls removed from proto-Rotho?

      What gives? Is the claim: Magonians diet of raw seaweed and kelp provides them with Biblical life-spans?

      Is that why you want the islands, Earl? For the macroscopic marine algae?

  13. peace

    1) Oil.

    Territorial claims and rights to drill. A 230 mile radius boundary even from the shoreline of a micro-islet would = 166,190 square miles of sovereign drilling rights. That is a lot of potential deep sea oil and gas.

    2) Narrative: U.S. identity maintenance of being #1

    We may have lost our ability to claim world economic hegemony but our desire to maintain an identity as #1 at something may add to our desire to focus on continued military supremacy (or an identity of “the” world’s policeman).

    1. ABC123

      1.) Drilling rights are never more than a bribe/offer they can’t refuse away.

      2.) Export college/NFL football, which we appear intent on doing anyway.

      Hey! We’re #1! Ain’t dying empires funny?

  14. Nacho Pepe

    The fishing boat that the Japanese Coast Guard arrested in 2010 is the one that actually rammed (twice) te Japanese ship when it was try to “shoo it away” in Prof. Wade’s expression. Am I right?

    I don’t think if you ram into a military ship and you be arrested for it anybody can claim that Japan has changed any stance or broken any Agreement for it, since it would have not done so had not it been attacked. SO I am afraid I have to disagree with Prf. Wade’s position here trying to justify China’s attitude in this matter. The Japanese didn’t change their attitude at all, they were doing what they always had, as the text itself states. Never had they encountered such resistance and, seriously, if you ram a military boat, does anybody expect they will just watch arms crossed? I believe under such attack we are in very different territory than some Fisheries Agreement and into an agression in international waters, which probably falls under a total different set of laws, if any.

    Thereby yes, China is increasingly bullying its neighbours (ask Philippinos or Vietnamese about it) be it due to some internal politics or some need to reassert itself as it raises in importancebut Prof. Wade’s portrait of a defensive China that only responds to foreign movements is misleading.

    Still, the historical background he provides is in his usual accurate brilliance.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Was it just a fishing boat? I find it hard to imagine a fishing boat would contemplate ramming a coast guard boat twice

      The interesting thing is that while China is disputing her neighbors, so is Japan engaging in territorial disputes with her neighbors actively, Taiwan (the case here), Korea, and not so actively, with Russia.

      I believe I saw a giant billboard by a local freeway, put up by, I believe, Koreans or Korean Americans, once, about some island.

  15. David Lentini

    Great article and many intersting comments. A few observations:

    1. China’s sense of humiliation goes back much farther than the Second World War–Think back to the early 19th Century and the destruction of Chinese sovereignty by the British (Opium War) and the Europeans and America (the Open Door Policy and the Boxer Rebellion). Japan’s rise at the end of the 19th Century as a sort of Western clone only added to the humiliations.

    2. I don’t see how China can use the Potsdam Declaration as a basis for a claim on the islands. Communist China didn’t exist then, and the Nationalists became the Taiwanese government. I realize that the competing claims of the two countries to a single Chinese nation make things murky, but it seems to me that between them the Taiwanese government has the better claim on this basis.

    3. Let’s face it: In international relations, possession is 10/10’s of the law. Japan’s actions in the Sino-Japan war gave it some claim to possession, which was ceded to the US after WWII. The US has allowed Japan to resume control of the islands. (But I’m no expert on international law and open to other views.)

    4. I find the idea that the islands have some sort of militarily strategic value dubious: (1) The islands are too small to act as a forward base; (2) they are too close to China to defend; (3) they would be wiped out in a flash by tactical nukes or overrun by troops from the mainland; and (4) detecting boomers as they leave on patrol doesn’t reduce their threat that much as we know from the Cold War.

    So, like many other crises in international relations, we have the key drivers of national pride, greed, and fear mongering. The Chinese sense that the US has been weakened by the Afghan and Iraq wars, it’s gradual submersion into Syria and Iran, and the never-ending financial crisis. Beijing has a long list of historical humiliations, especially vis-a-vis Japan, that they’d like to start addressing now that they are an emerging economic and military power and the US isn’t so strong a bully. The US fears looking weaker relative to anyone on the planet and the effect that could have on the financial markets that rely on the strength of the dollar, and the end of the American Century fantasy that China hands like Henry Luce have spun for generations. Look for lots more kabuki to come, but I don’t think we’ll see the balloon go up anu time soon.

  16. Eric

    It would interesting to read Wade’s view on the Chinese 11 and 9 lines position. I’ll have to check out his web site…

  17. Nomdemom

    I would like to thank the author and Yves for this excellent article. We now have Abe in Japan trying to lift Japan out of recession through inflationary interest rate policies, that will spur further purchases of arms from the US to “defend” themselves with. There is much to dislike about the current Chinese regime, but China is undisputedly THE major power in Asia and has been throughout its millennia of political history. Ignore this at your peril. I fear the US (ie, the corporate militarists who run the country) will let these rocks in the Pacific become a flashpoint, for military and economic reasons. Beware of alliances as they will drag the US into perhaps unintended entanglements. What interests do we really share with Japan? And “render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar’s (ie, let’s get real about the magnitude of China’s regional role).

  18. Trisectangle

    The talk of China taking an aggressive stance is not solely based on the dispute with Japan. China is taking an aggressive stance concerning many territorial disputes it has with its neighbours. You provide good additional context to the Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute but totally gloss over things like China’s contribution to the collapse of the latest ASEAN summit, the recent standoff at the Scarborough Shoals, the dispute about the Spratlys etc.

  19. c.raghavan

    the entire san fransisco treaty and the developments since then, is in fact contrary, not only to the potstam declaration, but the understanding between FDR and Chian KaiShek at Cairo 1943, as mentioned by Eliott Roosevelt citing what his father told him after the meeting.among others, thetwo agreed that China can end the extra-territorial rights of britain and other europeans, and had the right to refuse permission to the british royal navy to its coastal waters or the ports.


    1. Synopticist

      Well, FDR and Chian KiaShek were in no postion to make a deal of thet sort were they? How could they decide what other great powers were going to do?

      FDR wildly over-estimated Koumitang effectiveness in WW2. They were shocking incompetent and hopelessly corrupt. Huge stores of US military equipment the US sent to China ended up being stockpilied in warehouses by CKS rather than distributed to the army, because he didn’t trust his generals with it.
      A lot of it ended up destroyed by US advisors as the Japanese advanced in order to keep it out of their hands.

      1. Jessica

        One thing that fascinates me is how it was possible that the Kuomintang (KMT) did such a wretched job running China, then did such a good job running Taiwan. I am hard-pressed to think of a comparable example, other than maybe the 1969 Mets.
        And the US deserves credit for pushing the ROC and South Korea to enact exactly the kind of land reform that it overthrew governments for in Latin America.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          It might also have something to do with the fact the Chiang dis-armed old warlord divisions from Guangxi, etc, before they could land in Taiwan. He made sure only his own KMT troops were armed.

  20. Synopticist

    China’s in a pretty good position to start WW3 right now.
    It’s destroyed/out-competed/out-subsidised lots of it’s enemies productive capacity, it has huge stores of vital war materials, and could get Russian stuff without worrying about a naval blockade.
    It could crush the US currency on day one, and hugelly upset its’ consumer economy. Apart from Japan and Taiwan, none of the other countries in East Asia have much effective, hi-tech military kit, Europe has nothing to contribute, and would anyway start crapping itself at the Russians.
    Plus, they may have some long-laid digital Pearl Harbour plan, bearing in mind most US stuff is made with Chinese components.

    I always had a slight suspicion that this is what China was planning for for a decade or so. I’m not saying they are, but there’s always the possibility.

  21. Susan the other

    Whoa! Holy checkmate already Batman. This was an astonishingly informative piece by Mr. Wade. It explained a lot of stuff going on and under the radar at the present. But i found one thing glaringly absent: The new push to redefine nationalist villains as “resource nationalist.” Hoarding all those resources that the rest of the modern world needs and wants. China is the poster boy. And the pattern of US behavior is almost identical to how we maneuvered Japan in 1940. Right down to the skirmish in northern Burma. And giving Karzai nukes? That makes sense now too. Talk about chess. Even Russia is a virtual ally, no doubt because Siberian oil is at stake. And Mongolian uranium. This is a testament to just how patient and methodical we have been. We are not the clodhoppers we thought we were. This certainly explains North Korea which otherwise should be laughed out of existence. And it might even explain the GFC as an attempt to bring China down with a world depression. One could speculate all day on this, and where it will go…. The TPP aggressively excluding China… Hong Kong still a financial beach head for the West… Really a great article. Thanks.

    1. XYZ

      We’re not the clodhoppers we thought we were.

      Speak for yourself. Plenty of people saw where the “war on terror” was really heading. Norman Mailer even lectured about it on the eve of the Iraq war.

  22. Schofield

    Hypothetical_Taxpayer says:
    February 8, 2013 at 8:12 am

    “Or we could just nuke the islands…then no one will want them.”

    Hell France could even nuke the UK and have a greater claim to oil under the sea!

  23. Schofield

    Synopticist says:
    February 8, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    “China’s in a pretty good position to start WW3 right now.
    It’s destroyed/out-competed/out-subsidised lots of it’s enemies productive capacity, it has huge stores of vital war materials, and could get Russian stuff without worrying about a naval blockade.”

    Hell yes. “Revolving Door Politics” has sabotaged the West’s productive capacity!

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Not true. It does not have access to oil and internal combustion engines run on oil distillates. The oil it can get from Iran is insufficient in amount and too poor in quality (heavy sour crude) to go anywhere near far enough.

  24. kaj

    Chinaś claim to Tibet is based upon their so-called 1000 or more year old maps, when no paper existed, never mind the ability to map the Tibetan highlands. The saintly and non-violent Dalai Lama has been trying to resolve that issue peacefully for most of his life and he will die without meeting that last wish just like the daily self-immolations taking place in Tibet now.

    The Chinese government under the butcher Mao pulled the same trick on India about 50 years ago claiming several hundred miles of useless, barren, mountainous territory, altitude around 10,000 feet based on similar map rigging. The Indians were shocked and lacking the ability to retaliate have accepted the matter fait-accompli.

    The Vietnemese, the Thai, the Phillipines and the Japanese among other have similar problems with this new giant — a rich and powerful ogre. This problem can only be resolved peacefully when the United Nations Security Council is enlarged to include new permanent members including Brazil, Germany, Japan, India and South Korea, without the threat of veto by any of the permanent members. None of the big powers, ie, the U.S., Russia and China will consent to this for obvious reasons. Only when China is shamed into to submission before an international tribunal can any progress be made.

    As long as we have arrogant, inexperienced and foolish people like Obama or Xi in China, lodged in positions of high power and willing to sell off their people to distant wars with orchestrated war chants, the outlook for peace looks dim.

    Last Comment: Yves, have not heard from your occasional columnist who was crying doom about the price of oil which is now about the highest it has ever been in the first quarter. His credentials on paper, at least, looked pretty good.

      1. Mark P.

        Maybe no paper in Tibet. Though I’ve a hard time crediting even that.

        Still, interesting to hear from someone with an Asian focus and a serious grudge against the Chinese. It’s not just the Indians, the Vietnamese and the Tibetans.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Perhaps he was referring to the state of Tangut, a military power with Xianbei rulers and perhaps Tibetan subjects (I am sure, reading Wiki articles), which was conquered by the Mongols whose territories were more or less inherited by Ming China wherever and whenever their soldiers could reach and control.

    1. American Slave

      Lol I knew it was omly a matter of time till someone brought up Tibet. So what about the native Americans, do the Lakota have a right to there homeland?

      If that was the way the world “worked” than we would have literally a million countries which probably wouldnt be good for a lot of people but who knows, I always think of cases like Yemen a super poor country next to one of the bigest oil producers in the world Soudi Arabia.

  25. Hugh

    I think Japan should cede control of the islands the day China formally recognizes Tibetan independence and withdraws from its territory.

    The current competing claims are based on prior Chinese and Japanese imperial claims. Japan and the US have exercised effective control over the islands for more than a century. So I would have to say that control goes to Japan by default.

    I look at China in terms of its history over the last 2,000 years. Whenever there was a strong central government, it would expand its authority abroad in what were called “an”, literally “peace”, that is protectorates or spheres of influence. Each an had a direction. So for instance An-nan was the south protectorate. This became Annam, the old name for Vietnam. I see China’s resurrection of old imperial claims as completely in keeping with its pattern of expansionism in times of political and economic resurgence.

    The other thing I wanted to mention was the Nationalist government after it fled to Taiwan had what I once thought was this weird charade of maintaining ministries covering all of China’s provinces as if it still exercised control over them. What I learned much later was this too was drawn straight out of Chinese history. When China fragmented as it has several times, the fragments would often assert that each was the true successor to the whole territory and set up, just like Taiwan, a shadow bureaucracy for the whole of the country. Now one or none of these fragments might actually succeed in establishing its hegemony over the whole of the Chinese territory. And you have to wonder what the legitimacy of any of their claims actually was.

    For me, it makes me look askance at the revival of century old Chinese claims. It would rather be like Austria renewing claims to much of central Europe. As for China’s neighbors, many of them fell under the “an” system at one time or another. And they only have to look at China’s treatment of Tibet and the Uighur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang) for how China deals with its current protectorates.

    The islands themselves are really nothing, but for all concerned they evoke anger and unease about both the past and the future.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      You look past the last 2,000 years, to first and second millenium BC, you get the feeling there was a lot of colonization going on.

      When the First Emperor united China under Qin soldiers, they set up commandaries in Korea and Annam. That sounds like some sort of colonization. Before that, you get the feeling some of the states during the Warring State period had not really been sinonized long and many rulers claimed they descented from the ruling families of Zhou, Shang or the Yellow Emperor. Maybe some Han elites from the Central Plain came and imposed their wills on the locals. In any case, all non-Han states were evetually conquered. One of them was the state of Yueh, which was located roughly around present today’s Hangzhou or Zhejiang area. More Yueh people lived south of that, in today’s Fujian and Guangdong provinces and Vietnam itself. In fact, the word for Viet is the same as the word for Yueh, the ancient state.

      TOday in Thailand, the population is made of the Thai people in the north and Siamese in the south. The Thai people came originally from central China. One can imagine their being driven out or moving south in order to avoid being colonized.

  26. jabre

    A great deal of context is missing in this narrative. China’s aggressive stand towards all of it’s South China Sea neighbors sheds a different light on the conclusion of this post. The similar aggressions toward Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia would tend to indicate the second and third straw dog (proposition) is more accurate.

    “Proposition two is that China’s more “sharp-elbowed” approach is driven by the government’s wish to divert public attention from China’s internal problems, notably slowing economic growth; not by actions of other states.

    Proposition three is that China’s “bold, brash, and brazen” behavior has prompted the United States’ recent high-profile “pivot to Asia” as it winds down wars in West and Central Asia”

    google it. Many, many references.

  27. different clue

    Rights and/or wrongs of “who-owns-what” aside . . . as China finished the drawdown and trashout of all natural resources within its own borders, it will seek to seize more natural resources outside its borders by any means necessary.
    It will become a worse/worster/worstest neighbor over the next few decades.

    The other East/Southeast Asian Nations will come to regard China the way the Indian Nations came/have come to regard America.

    1. ABC123

      Fortunately both the Chinese and the USA governments/plutocrats will be blocked in their efforts to extend their reign of misery on planet earth by naturally imposed limits, one way or another. Either way, it doesn’t look good for the long term for homo sapiens. And no, it doesn’t HAVE to be that way, it’s just that we silly humans seem to continue to WANT it to be. Evolution: Earth teaches, species learn. Or not. Earth don’t care one way or the other.

      1. different clue

        It is a mistake to confuse “industrial growth-economics civilization” with “humans”. Many human societies always knew/know what you suggest above. Economic-growthist industrial civilizationists seek to exterminate those cultures, by physically exterminating the culture-bearers if assimilation/de-culturation does not work.

        The China Plutocrats are younger and stronger and have a racial-nationalist Han population of over a billion firmly in their corner and at their back. They will spend the next few decades getting what they want and destroying what they get. American Plutocrats will become their eager junior partners. Oh well . . .

  28. Peter

    Okinawa aborigines’s tombs are typically Chinese tranditional style.

    Okinawa aborgines’s ancient architectures are typically Chinese traditional style.

    Okinawa aborgines’s old captial city locates in the southern part of the island, facing Taiwan, instead of locating in the north and facing Japan.

    Okinawa aborgines’s still keep the habit of eating animal guts, like Chinese. But Japanese never do this.


    Maybe both China and Japan have no soverignty over Okinawa and its neighbouring island, particularly from modern nation-state perspective.

    But currently China has more reasonable postions. Japanese government lies to the world and its people. Many Japanese are brainwashed.

    1. Walter

      Brainwashed? Are you talking about the Chinese here?

      Chinese government actively censors their medias, and the internet. At least the Japanese has relatively free medias and free internet access. Now tell me, who is likely to be brainwased?

      1. Peter

        Okinawa aboringines do not know their history. Traditionaly their name consists two or three Kanji characters, like traditional Chinese. It is Japanese who conquered them and forced them change their name, with Japanese style, normally four Kanji Characters.

        During World War Two, the number of Okinawa aboringines killed by Janpanese outnumbers those killed by Amerincans. Obiviously, Okinawa aboringines were not treated as Japanese by Japanese themselvers.

        Japanese official version does not dare to talk about Japan China war in 1894 which changed the status of Okinawa. Yet US official version thinks the war leads to the legal occupation of Okinawa. Nonetheless, the war is unjustice. That is why US President of Roosevolt proposed twice returning of Okinawa to Taiwan government before it established diplomatic relationship with P.R China.

        You could tell me now, who is brainwashed.

        1. different clue

          How did the Okinawa Aborigines get Chinese style written names? By earlier Chinese conquest? Why should an earlier Chinese conquest be accorded any more moral standing than a later Japanese conquest?

  29. Paul Tioxon

    It is a telling ommission, that the relocation from Okinawa, of the US Military prescence, and its establishment of Guam as the NEW and IMPROVED nerve center of the Pacific Command. Why would Prof Wade leave out a signal of easing away from the Japanese islands? The easy answer is the tough negotiations with the locals and the pressure of the Japanese faction to show nationalism and independence in the face of a long time occupation. Too long for people who were born two and three or more generations after the sins of the fathers were committed.

    Is it possible that we move gradually away from these Isles as gesture towards China that we are not expecting to contain a friend, but are moving back to give them some space? Hmmmm? Too many factions, too many Westphalian Doctors of Law. And, too many variables. China, The 2 Koreas and Japan, they don’t get along well. East Asian nations are distrustful of Japan. We don’t want to see them become too well armed, do we? Well, here is a Korean perspective that is none too concerned about US politics as much as we are here on NC.

    Guam figures as an important base, with the US building up capacity there for all forces and spending $Billions.

  30. Jim Davey

    To avoid a conflict it seems like the United Nations could step in and declare they/it is in charge of the islands … maybe the U.N. could then dump a few million tins of nuclear waste on them so neither nation would want them.

    But like what happens to a person that throws water on two fighting dogs … they both turn and join force, and attack the person.

  31. Lin-Hayashi

    A balanced and incisive account of the on-going China-Japan dispute. This is a must-read for transcending the existing statements from government propaganda and oligarchic journalism. Whether or not agreeing with the precise points, a serious and responsible observer cannot ignore this contribution/intervention by Prof Wade.

    I do hope that Prof Wade further work on other related issues, including: (1) the South China Sea disputes, (2) the Sino-Indian disputes, and (3) the Taiwan question. Better still, we do need similar work on “the other side of the stories” – the US’s new Asian strategy, and Prime Minister Abe’s gamble on the destiny of Japan.

  32. Claudius

    The important question is: Why did Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) ships sail so close (3km) to their People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) counterparts in international waters on this occasion, and why did the PLAN “radar lock’ them?

    Actually, this is not the first time the MSDF ships/planes/helicopters have tracked the PLAN fleets (and vice-versa). On Dec 9, 2012, when a PLAN fleet was on its way to the western Pacific for scheduled drills, it was trailed by 3 MSDF ships and 3 MSDF planes. That PLAN fleet was also radar-locked by the MSDF ships for over a hundred times in 24 hours, all while in international waters.

    On Jan 19, 2013, a PLAN flotilla was on its way back to base in Zhejiang after finishing its anti-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden. When the PLAN ships were en route in the East China Sea, the MSDF had sent its vessels and helicopters to stalk and to collect intelligence (electronic signals, communications, photo-taking and video recording, etc.) from the PLAN ships. One of the PLAN frigates then reciprocated and radar-locked an MSDF helicopter which was flying too close..

    On Jan 30, 2013, another PLAN fleet was on its way to conduct drills in the western Pacific. As usual, MSDF vessels and planes were sent to trail their PLAN counterparts. But this time, instead of radar-locking the MSDF helicopters, a PLAN frigate radar-locked one of the stalking MSDF destroyers.

    Practically, however, the MSDF really doesn’t have sufficiently deployed equipment to engage the PLAN and win any naval action in defense of the disputed islands. That said, Japan is quite well prepare to deploy such equipment if it is allowed to increase the number of US-2 amphibious air-sea rescue planes and anti-submarine/ maritime surveillance UAV helicopters (several tens of billion dollars in arms procurement) around its south-western islands – presently, not possible under the of Japan’s terms of its MSDF ‘charter’ and non-aggression treaty).

    Still, the US military and MIC in general are keen to provide additional equipment and more – specifically, F35s to Japan – for which the US MIC is lobbying Capitol Hill, vigorously to allow; given “threats” such as China.

    But, I think Professor Wade is a little “deferential” in terms of laying out the historical and legal context of the dispute. Arguably, it’s a more clearer than he states. The “confusion” has its genesis, principally, in post-70’s US-Sino politics and the MIC’s recent (post 2000) desire to increase arms sales in the region.

    After WW2, Japan accepted the terms as declared in the “Cairo Declaration”:
    “Japan shall be stripped off all the islands of the Pacific which she has seized or occupied since the beginning of the First World War, and that all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria (Northeast China), Formosa (Taiwan), and the Pescadores (Penghu Archipelago), shall be restored to the Republic of China.

    And the “Potsdam Declaration”: “The terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out and Japanese Sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine.” It should be noted that nowhere in this Declaration, or any related documents that Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands declared as part of Japanese Sovereignty.

    Additionally: United Nations Instructions No. 677, a supplementary of the Potsdam Declaration term no. 8 to define the Japanese territory, issued on January 29, 1946:
    “For the purpose of this directive, Japan is defined to include the four main islands of Japan (Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku) and the approximately 1,000 smaller adjacent islands, including the Tsushima Islands and the Ryukyu (Nansei) Islands north of 30° North Latitude (excluding Kuchinoshima Island); and excluding (a) Utsuryo (Ullung) Island, Liancourt Rocks (Take Island) and Quelpart (Saishu or Cheju) Island, (b) the Ryukyu (Nansei) Islands south of 30° North Latitude (including Kuchinoshima Island), the Izu, Nanpo, Bonin (Ogasawara) and Volcano (Kazan or Iwo) Island Groups, and all the other outlying Pacific Islands [including the Daito (Ohigashi or Oagari) Island Group, and Parece Vela (Okinotori), Marcus (Minami-tori) and Ganges (Nakano-tori) Islands], and (c) the Kurile (Chishima) Islands, the Habomai (Hapomaze) Island Group (including Suisho, Yuri, Akiyuri, Shibotsu and Taraku Islands) and Shikotan Island.”

    So, legally, under the terms of a number of different treaties Japan has either renounced its claim or has been stripped of its claim to the islands (seems like both to me). And, it is only relatively recently (at the prodding of the US MIC) is Japan, counter-intuitively, even questioning its own lack of legal standing in relation to the islands, and is now seeking to increase its military resources in (US-based) defense of its dispute.

    So, what else does this demand for increased military build-up impact?
    It should also be noted that Japan has a territorial dispute of the Kuril Islands with Russia and the Dodao islands with South Korea. China and Philippine’s have a disputed claim on Spratly’s and Scarborough Shoal – though this dispute being simply ludicrous. The Philippine constitution (from 1899, 1935, 1943, 1973, 1986 and 1987) never included either the Spratly’s or the Scarborough Shoal within their declared national territory. All official maps published by the Philippines until the 1990s excluded both the Spratly’s and Scarborough Shoal from its territorial boundaries. The Philippine Republic Act No. 3046, passed by their Congress and approved in 1961, stopped them from their claim; yet, under pressure from the Bush administration, the Philippine parliament amends this law on March 10, 2009.

    The US Military Industrial complex is the principal arms supplier to Japan, South Korea and Philippines.

    This is the second, recent, article posted on NC that has a Military Industrial Complex (MIC) propaganda bent (The most recent being the ludicrous Iran/EMP/Boeing nonsense). Perhaps, Yves, NC is becoming increasingly distracted (or less discerned) by MIC economics?

  33. NickG

    THe world would be better off without China USA RUSSIA AND INDIA> I offer a Challange to all four countries leaders a fight to the death one on one no weapons fot the islands. Lot of piss weak leaders ha ha ha! Leaders thats so funny by itself! I will wait to hear for a challenge from our strong and brave leaders. Can’t believe any person would fight for these pathetic little wimps! China’s leaders are hilarious they are the most pathetic little weak men i have ever seen. I’ll fight china’s leader for his job too. I challenge him!I know he won’t accept i’d have one in less than a minute! Our leaders are criminals all of them and i see not one i respect or fear on their own.

  34. NickG

    All nuclear countries the rest of the world won’t miss the big boys! Hopefully who ever gets the islands i don’t care i just hope now wealth is made and with some luck an earth quake will sink the lot. Sick of polititions starting fights. If our leaders want them get some guns and go fight the chinese leaders to the death. Leave the honest people out of it. Our leaders are wimps and deserve nothing. Why do you stupid brainless soldiers fight for these weak little men. They wont give the island so make them fight for it themselves…If only!

  35. NickG

    And Jim What stupid ideas the un has no such power as China are part of the 5 main members. And nuclear waste i’m sure japan will want more of that near by. You’re kidding surely!

  36. NickG

    China will choke on it’s own pollution and over population they will rise and fall just as quick i’m certain. Population must be getting old with the old one child policy to another well thought out plan from our weak brainless leaders ha ha.

  37. Jack Murray

    It is all about SLOCs , they are trapped and do not appreciate the vulnerable position they hold
    So much for a peaceful rise,whatever happened to that strategy
    Should the US back down well so much for a 65 year post world war 11 security structure
    Maybe the prof has a better idea,
    If the us does not stand for its legally binding w pasicfic treaties
    Then what
    Does s Korea, Japan and taiwan world start to revolve around the middle kingdom
    Whatever happened to the international liberal dream of the 1.3 billion market.we should ask toyota and Honda how it’s going
    Offensive realism seems to be making a comeback

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