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Island Conflict

In: Historical Events

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Final Paper: Senkaku Diaoyu Dispute

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Table of Contents
Sino-Japanese Dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands4
Pending Controversy from the Chinese Perspective 4
China’s Strategy in the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands Dispute 6
Issue Linkage and Coercive Diplomacy 6
Sino-Japanese political-economic relations 8
Cold Politics and Hot Economics 8

Abstract: The Senkaku Diaoyu crisis is a territorial dispute between China and Japan over a group of islands know as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese. The Sino-Japanese dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dates back to as early as 1895 when Japan annexed the islands. It was not until the 1960’s and early 1970’s that the dispute becomes a major topic of Sino-Japanese relations due to a report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East that suggested possible large hydrocarbon deposit in the waters off Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands (Zhongqi, P. 2007).
China however, has clearly stated that the islands have been its territory for the last five centuries (Yuan 2013). There are many disputes in regards to the ownership of the islands. Firstly, China believes that Japans claim of sovereignty over the islands in 1895 holds no meaning, leaving the lands unclaimed. Second, China and Japan disagree over whether Japan returned the islands to China after the Japanese defeat in World War II. Lastly, China and Japan debate over how their maritime boundary in the East China Sea should be demarcated according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which came into effect in 1994 (Zhongqi, P. 2007).
China asserts that its Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) considered the islets part of its maritime territory and included them on maps and documents of areas covered by Ming Dynasty coastal defenses. China claims that the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) went further and placed the islets under the jurisdiction of Taiwan, which was a part of the Qing Dynasty. Japan, which argues that there is no territorial dispute, laid claim to the islets on January 14, 1895, when the Japanese Cabinet issued a decision to formally incorporate them into Japanese territory. Before then, Japan argues, the islets were uninhabited, without owner (terra nullius), and “showed no trace of having been under the control of China.” The Chinese and Taiwanese governments reject Japan’s terra nullius claim (Manyin 2013).
The United States State Department, during Senate deliberations on whether to consent to the ratification of the Okinawa Reversion Treaty, asserted that the United States took a neutral position with regard to the competing claims of Japan, China, and Taiwan, despite the return of the islets to Japanese administration (Manyin 2013).
“Sino-Japanese Dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands:
The Pending Controversy from the chinese Perspective” In this article, Dr. Zhongqi Pan, an associate Professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs in Fundan University, talks about the island conflict between China and Japan over the Diaoyu and Senkaku Islands from a Chinese perspective. Dr. Zhongqi Pan starts off with an introduction of the islands. Diaoyu is the name the Chinese have for the islands while Senkaku is the Japanese name and are a tiny group of eight islands in the East China Sea, all of which are uninhabited. The Sino-Japanese dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dates back to as early as 1895 when Japan annexed the islands. It was not until the 1960’s and early 1970’s that the dispute becomes a major topic of Sino-Japanese relations. “In 1968, a report of the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East suggested possible large hydrocarbon deposit in the waters off Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands.” The publication of this report has since fueled the island dispute between China and Japan because of their growing need for energy and is considered the central reason for the dispute. The dispute only came into the open in 1969 after the U.S. and Japan issued a joint statement, which led the Ryukyu Reversion Agreement, signed in 1971 that included the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands as park of Okinawa to be returned to Japanese rule. Prior to the Ryukyu Reversion Agreement, in December of 1970, the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) formally stated that the Diaoyu Islands were China’s sacred territory and that the exploitation of the area by foreign countries would not be tolerated. At first, the U.S. government supported Japan’s claim but because the U.S. wanted to improve relations with the PRC, it then took a neutral stand on the issue.
With the islands located midway between the island of Taiwan and the Japanese Ryukyu Islands, Diaoyu/Senkaku would grant their legal owner an advantage with an enlarged frontier leaving the other side with a disadvantage.
Economically, sovereignty over the islands would allow the owner 40,000 square kilometers of surrounding continental shelf. This not only would effect the fishing industry but the natural gas and oil potentials in this region could greatly benefit the owner of the islands.
Despite the economic and strategic advantage the islands posses, they also hold political importance. Dr. Zhongqi Pan believes that the dispute over the islands is directly relevant to both China and Japan’s domestic politics and international status. The handling of the dispute will impact the Chinese and Japanese central governments in domestic politics and on their foreign relations in the international arena. In this regard, this dispute becomes increasingly more difficult to resolve because the legitimacy of government as well as economic and strategic benifits are at stake.
Dr. Zhongqi Pan believes that although sovereignty is the key to the Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute, the complicated issue can be broken down into three aspects, the ownership of the islands, the return of the islands, and the demarcation of maritime boundary. Firstly, China believes that Japans claim of sovereignty over the islands in 1895 holds no meaning, leaving the lands unclaimed. Second, China and Japan disagree over whether Japan returned the islands to China after the Japanese defeat in World War II. Lastly, China and Japan debate over how their maritime boundary in the East China Sea should be demarcated according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which came into effect in 1994.
“China’s Strategy in the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands Dispute:
Issue Linkage and Coercive Diplomacy” In this article, Krista E. Wiegand talks about the conflicts that have risen over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Wiegand states that since the disputes began, China has regularly made diplomatic and militarized threats about the disputed islands. The reason for these disputed over these tiny islands in the South China Sea is because of a potentially large amount of oil that could provide energy sources to either country for the next 50-80 years. China’s threats come to no surprise with this in mind because they are the second largest consumer of oil after the United States. Wiegand’s article proposes and explanation for China’s unwillingness to drop its territorial claim and its threats over the disputed islands. Wiegand states that China has used a dual strategy of issue linkage and coercive diplomacy. Issue linkage occurs when a country deliberately links two or more foreign policy issues together, claiming that the resolution of one issue cannot occur without resolution of the other. Coercive diplomacy occurs when one country attempts to compel another country through coercion, threat or the use of force to reconsider or shift its foreign policy on a certain issue. Wiegand believes that China is using this dual strategy and threats not only to show resolve but also to link the threats to other disputed issues which compels Japan to reconsider its position other issues and provides China with greater bargaining leverage. Wiegand argues that because of the tactics, these island disputes become increasingly more complicated to resolve while also believing that the primary reason for the dispute is not because of oil, but rather “unresolved historical grievances and the politics of national identity”. Wiegand briefly talks about a quick over view of the islands dispute. The Diaoyu/Senkaku Island chain is comprised of eight small, uninhabited, barren islands. It is located in the East China Sea approximately 120 miles west of Fukien Province in China and 90 miles northwest of the islands in the Japanese Ryukyu island chain. As part of the Treaty of Shimonoseki after the Sino-Japanese War of 1895, Japan acquired the islands from China. Then in 1951, the San Francisco Peace Treaty stripped Japan of several territories with the US taking administration over the islands in 1953. Then on May 15, 1972, the US returned the islands to Japan in accordance with the Okinawa Reversion Treaty that was signed in June 1971. However, on December 30, 1971, six months after the Reversion Treaty, China formally announced its claims on the islands. Since then, nothing has changed, Japan occupies the islands, claiming there are no territorial disputes while China claims the islands are a par of its national sovereignty. From 1978 to 2008, China has made threats against Japan on 26 occasions with 13 being militarized threats and the other 13 being diplomatic threats. 77 percent of these threats occurred around the same time that China and Japan were disputing other issues and can be seen as initial support for Wiegand’s argument that China’s threats are linked to other disputes. Table 1 in this article lists all threats with dates, type of action and the linked issue and table 2 lists the number of linked issues. As can be seen in table 1 and table 2, the most signifigant issue linked to the territorial disputes was talks or realignments of the Japan-US security agreement. Also on the list is Japan’s treatment of wartime atrocities, Japanese decisions to cut aid or place economic sanctions on China, SDF troop deployment, general Japanse military plans, upcoming bilateral talks and Japan’s bid for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.
“The Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute and Sino-Japanese political-economic relations: cold politics and hot economics” Min Gyo Koo is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Administration at Yonsei University, Korea. Senkaku Retto in Japanese means Rocky Hill Islands and Diaoyutai in Chinese means Fishing Platform Islands, are the disputed islands effectively controlled by Japan. These islands hold symbolic, political, economic and historical significance to both parties. They are the reasons why either side refused to give way to the other. Koo does not perceive this dispute to come to a peaceful agreement nor does he believe this dispute will escalate into a full-scale militarized conflict. Explanations for this dispute include calidity of contending historical evidence, domest legitimization processes, competition foe energy and marine resources, historical animosities and the role of the United States as an architect for the post war Asian system. Koo’s article argues that a liberal peace perspective, an assumption that economic interdependence fosters peaceful relations by giving states an economic incentive to avoid costly military disputes, is the reason why China and Japan have found it in their interest to de-escalate conflicts. Koo’s article goes through history shows certain patterns for flare-ups over the disputed islands. The first of which occurred during 1968-71 and was caused by a geological survey conducted by the Committee for Coordination of Joint Prospecting for Mineral Resources in Asian Offshore Areas (CCOP). This survey suggested that there is a high probability that the continental shelf between Taiwan and Japan may be one of the largest oil reservoirs in the world, potentially 10 to 100 billion barrels of oil. The next flare-up of tension came in 1978 with a fishing expedition. A group of Peace and Friendship Treaty (PFT) Japanese politicians consisting of mostly right wing LDP members urged that the island dispute be resolved as part of the PFT negotiations, believing that China would compromise on the island for Japans support with negotiations. China, in response, sent more that 100 fishing boats to surround the islands, some entering the islands. China showed that it would not tolerate Japan’s claims over the islands at any cost. In Elizabeth Yuan’s CNN news article “Former Japanese Prime Minister Slammed as ‘Traitor’ at Home”, Yuan talks about lingering disputes, as well as hostile feelings, between China and Japan’s people. The article starts off with former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama telling reporters, during a private four-day visit to China, “the Japanese government says there are no territorial disputes (between the two counties)”. The remarks do however, “contradict the Japanese government’s position indisputable territorial sovereignty over the islands that it calls Senkaku and that China calls Diaoyu” (Yuan). Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera even went as far as to call Hatoyama a “traitor” on television over this discrepancy. The disputes over the islands originates in 1895, the end of the first Sino-Japanese war when Japan annexed them. China however, has said that the islands have been its territory for the last five centuries. Hostilities may have started in 1895 but they did not end there, the article goes on to say. There has been anti-Japanese resentment among the Chinese people since the 1931 Japanese invasion of China and the atrocities committed during World War II like the 300,000 people killed in a 1937 massacre by Japanese forces. As recently as this past September, there have been violent anti-Japanese protests in China. In a poll taken by Phoenix Online (iFeng) of more that 222,000 people after Hatoyama paid tribute to the Nanjing Memorial (which is for the 300,000 people killed), 80% of people said that “Hatoyama’s visit did not have much political significance”. In another question, nearly two-thirds of 140,000 people surveyed said the visit by a former leader wouldn’t set an example for a fellow Japanese politician. Chinese media did however highly praise Hatoyama for his actions and urged the Chinese to “remember the unusual kindness due to its scarcity” (Yuan). I believe that in order to understand the political interactions between China and Japan, it is important that we first understand the mindset and the feelings that one nations people have for the other. Although there is not much depth, this article provides a broad understanding of the feelings the Chinese people have towards Japan and its people, not just historically but current day feelings. In Marianne Lavelle and Jeff Smith’s article, “Why Are China and Japan Sparring Over Eight Tiny, Uninhabited Islands?” they believe that this island conflict is arising from natural resources, oil and natural gas. The exact amount of oil and natural gas that lies in the South China Sea is unclear due to territorial disputes preventing reliable surveys. However, one Chinese estimate puts the oil stores at 213 billion barrels. This estimate is more than the proved reserves of every country except for Venezuela and Saudi Arabia with 296.5 and 265.4 billion barrels respectively. In the mid 1990’s, the US Geological Survey estimated a figure 10 times less than the Chinese estimate. Even though the US’s estimate is significantly less, it would put the South China Sea’s oil potential at four to five times that of the Gulf of Mexico. China also estimates that the East China Sea contains one of the world’s largest natural gas deposits at 250 trillion cubic feet. Again, U.S. energy analysts believe there to be less at 1 to 2 trillion cubic feet, still a considerable amount.
Although both countries say they have historical claims to the islands, Lavelle and Smith believe that these island disputes are only now stemming up because of recent technological developments in oil drilling. With the petroleum lying more than 8,200 feet deep and ultra-deep-water drilling only taking off in the Gulf of Mexico in 2005, there has been no way to tap these resources until now. Smith believes that if the technology had been available since the 60’s and 70’s, “there might be a different story to tell”.
I believe this article is important to this class because it conveys knowledge on a conflict that has been escalating in size. This article believes that the true reason for this conflict is due to the demand for natural resources, instead of historical claims and grievances. Knowing this, I believe that a natural resource conflict is easier resolved when compared to a historical one that dates back over a hundred years.

Hui, Wu, and Zhang Dan. "Territorial Issues on the East China Sea: A Chinese Position." Journal of East Asia & International Law 3.1 (2010): 137-149. Academic Search Alumni Edition. Web. 5 Mar. 2013. <>.
Koo, M. G. (2009). The senkaku/diaoyu dispute and sino-japanese political-economic relations: cold politics and hot economics?. The Pacific Review, 22(2), Retrieved from Senkaku Diaoyu dispute cold politics and hot economics.pdf
Manyin, Mark E. "Senkaku (Diaoyu/Diaoyutai) Islands Dispute: U.S. Treaty Obligations." Congressional Research Service, 22 Jan. 2013. Web. 20 Apr. 2013. <>.
Qimao , Chen. "The Taiwan Strait Crisis: Its Crux and Solutions." University of
California Press. 36.11 (1996): 1055-1066. Web. 5 Mar. 2013. <>.
Rosenburg, D. (2008). Maritime security in the south china sea: Coordinating coastal and user state priorities.Ocean Development & International Law, 35, 51-68. Retrieved from Securit.pdf
Smith, Paul J. "China-Japan Relations and the Future Geopolitics of East Asia." Asian
Affairs, an American Review. 35.4 (2009): 230-256. Web. 5 Mar. 2013. <>. Smith, Sheila A. “Japan and the East China Sea Dispute.” Orbis, Volume 56, Issue 3, Summer 2012, Pages 370–390: <>.
Valencia, Mark, J. (2007). The East China Sea Dispute: Context, claims, issues, and possible solutions.” Asian Perspective, 31(1), 127-167. Retrieved from
Wiegand, K. E. (2009). China's strategy in the senkaku/diaoyu islands dispute: Issue linkage and coercive diplomacy. Asia Security, 5(2), Retrieved from Diaoyu islands diplomacy issues.pdf Xu, Quangqiu. "The United States and the Tibet Issue." University of California Press.
37.11 (1997): 1062-1077. Web. 5 Mar. 2013. <>. Yuan, Elizabeth. "Former Japanese Prime Minister Slammed as 'traitor' at Home." CNN. Cable News Network, 18 Jan. 2013. Web. 23 Jan. 2013.
Zhongqi, P. (2007). Sino-japanese dispute over the diaoyu/senkaku islands: the pending controversy from the chinese perspective. Journal of Chinese Political Science, 12(1), Retrieved from Dispute over the Diaoyu Senkaku Islands the chinese perspective.pdf

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