This week in the “Shinso News” on BS Nittere an interesting document was introduced – “Senkaku (Diaoyu/Diaoyutai) Islands Dispute: U.S. Treaty Obligations”. This short ten-page document dated January 22, 2013 and it the latest one that I could find, which reflects the official position of the US in regards to Senkaku Islands (Okinawa pref.)
I believe not many Japanese actually read this document though it gives some ideas how US understands or misunderstands the situation with Senkaku.
Let us take a look at some interesting passages.
In the Introduction the document describes how Japan nationalized the Senkaku islands.
“Ishihara, who is known for expressing nationalist Japanese views, called for demonstrating Japan’s control over the islets by building installations such as a telecommunications base, a port, and a meteorological station.”
The author, Mark E. Manyin calls Shintaro Ishihara a nationalist, a common cliché that was carefully planted by the likes of China and Korea. Ishihara is no bigger nationalist than the ‘tea party movement’ in the US. Yes, he is a right-wing politician but nothing more. His call to build something on Senkaku is a proper one because it would be yet another affirmation that Japan exercises effective control over the islands, and who knows, there would be less China’s provocations in the area.
Then the document correctly states that “… China never established a permanent settlement …” on the islands. Based on the results of the Sino-Japanese War the Treaty of Shimonoseki (Apr 1895) was concluded between China and Japan – Taiwan and the nearby islands became a part of Japan.
The document continues that China and Taiwan “… argue that the intent of the Allied declarations at Cairo and Potsdam during World War II was to restore to China territories taken from it by Japan through military aggression, and thus the islets should have been returned to China.”
I think everyone looking at this China and Taiwan claim would find it strange – why the WWII results would have any effect on the events happened in 1895.
“U.S. administration of the islets began in 1953 as a result of the 1951 Treaty of Peace with Japan.10 The Treaty did not mention the Senkakus (Diaoyu/Diaoyutai), but it referred to other islets that had reverted to Chinese control or which China claimed. These included Taiwan and the Pescadores (off the western coast of Taiwan), as well as the Spratlys and the Paracels (both in the South China Sea).”
The above statement completely rebukes China’s claims that the Senkaku islands were to be “returned” to China.
The US administered the southwestern islands south of 29 north latitude.
“In 1953, the U.S. Civil Administration of the Ryukyus issued U.S. Civil Administration of the Ryukyus Proclamation 27 (USCAR 27), which defined the boundaries of ‘Nansei Shoto [the southwestern islands] south of 29 degrees north latitude” to include the Senkakus.’”
Both Japan and US understood the Senkaku islands are administered by the US as a part of this agreement.
“Moreover, during the period of U.S. administration, the U.S. Navy established firing ranges on the islets and paid an annual rent of $11,000 to Jinji Koga, the son of the first Japanese settler of the islets.”
What more can be said on the issue? China had absolutely no control of the islands, US taken over the administration of the islands from Japan, and it is admitted that the first settlers were Japanese. In the annotation there are more details about the Japanese settlers “Koga’s father ran several commercial operations on the islands, including fish-canning and guano collection.”
On May 15, 1972 under the Okinawa Reversion Treaty, all territories administered by the US were returned to Japan. ‘All’ meaning Senkaku included.
“A letter of October 20, 1971, by Robert Starr, Acting Assistant Legal Adviser for East Asian and Pacific Affairs—acting on the instructions of Secretary of State William Rogers – states that the Okinawa Reversion Treaty contained ‘the terms and conditions for the reversion of the Ryukyu Islands, including the Senkakus.’”
Nevertheless, the US stated that it just returned the administrative rights to Japan, from which the rights were received and claims neutrality on the islands ownership issue up to this day.
When asked if the U.S. – Japan Security Treaty applies to Senkaku “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton summed up the U.S. stance by stating, ‘… with respect to the Senkaku Islands, the United States has never taken a position on sovereignty, but we have made it very clear that the islands are part of our mutual treaty obligations, and the obligation to defend Japan.’” Moreover, Hillary Clinton called for talks between Japan and China with the US participation “to discuss a range of issues” clearly hinting at Senkaku Islands status.
Quite a lukewarm reaction to China’s provocations around Senkaku Islands. One could even doubt her ears. And it is not about some distant and ‘couldn’t care less’ country, Hilary Clinton is talking about the main and probably the only US ally in the Pacific. Is it a proper way to treat your allies like this?
No wonder Japan was quite a bit ‘disappointed’ at such reaction, though probably did not voice its disappointment. But that’s Obaba’s administration for you. It must be said that the position of the republican administration of George W. Bush was much more assertive, which can also be seen from the document.
“In 2004, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage stated that the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty ‘ … would require any attack on Japan, or the administrative territories under Japanese control, to be seen as an attack on the United States.’”
That would have given China a crystal clear message. Having even this level of support from its biggest ally would allow Japan to be more proactive and build some facilities in Senkaku underlining its control of the islands.
The US Congress seeing that China is using the American ‘no position on the islands sovereignty’ to its advantage escalating the situation, “inserted in the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/R42651.pdf) (H.R. 4310, P.L. 112-239) a resolution stating, among other items, that ‘the unilateral action of a third party will not affect the United States’ acknowledgment of the administration of Japan over the Senkaku Islands.’”
The meaning is that China’s attempts to show off some ‘administrative control’ of the islands by sending the guard ships and planes to the vicinity are all seen through and will not affect the US understanding that the rights of administration belong to Japan. From the Japan’s point of view it is not enough, but much better than nothing.
But even this statement was somewhat downplayed by Hilary Clinton in January 2013 right before the meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida: “‘we oppose any unilateral actions that would seek to undermine Japanese administration’ of the islets”.
“Attack on the United States” by Richard Armitage vs. “Oppose any unilateral actions” by Hilary Clinton… – such a huge gap. Many people in Japan would think – just what America is trying to do? How it is going to uphold its interests in the Pacific? Or even – are there any American interests in the Pacific at all…? These are all the questions yet to be answered.
One undeniably right thing of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty can be found in the summary of the document: “… it is commonly understood that Japan will assume the primary responsibility for the defense of the treaty area…”. This is very much true. The major issue is to prevent Chinese nationals from coming ashore in Senkaku whatever the cost. The next major provocation would almost certainly include such an attempt. The mid-range program should be to build permanent facilities in Senkaku.
Japan must be prepared to protect the Senkaku Islands all by itself and be strong exercising its ownership rights over the islands no matter who is in power in the US.