Friday, November 19, 2010

Tkacik on Cohen, AJISS on Okinawa

I blogged a few posts down on the source for the arguments of Jerome Cohen and John Van Dyke at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and in several newspapers and other venues for Chinese sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands. Today John Tkacik, writing the South China Morning Post (and brave of them to publish it, too), destroyed a specific claim of Cohen and Van Dyke's, observes:
He and Jon M. Van Dyke are entitled to their own opinions about the Senkaku Islands [known as the Diaoyus in China] - but, alas, not their own facts ("Lines of latitude", November 10).

Even Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou would reject their assertion that the islands "have proved incapable of sustaining human habitation".

As Mr Ma pointed out in his magisterial 1981 Harvard Law School thesis "Legal Problems of Seabed Boundary Delimitation in the East China Sea" (p. 93), the main Senkaku Island, Uotsuri, possesses "a [fresh water] spring big enough to accommodate 200 people". He noted that in the early 1900s "an enterprising Japanese named Koga brought scores of seasonal workers, food and supplies each year" to the island where he built "houses, reservoirs, docks, warehouses and sewers".

Mr Ma is hardly a cheerleader for Japan's title to the islands.

However, he acknowledged that Koga's son continued a fish processing operation on the island until the early 1940s when the settlement's population had grown to 248, according to Okinawa Prefecture household registry records.

Uotsuri was evacuated during the second world war, and the United States military, which occupied the islands of Okinawa Prefecture from 1945 until 1972, used the island for naval gunnery practice, all the while paying an annual rent for the privilege to the Koga clan.
The irony of using the thesis of President Ma, an ardent supporter of China's manufactured claim to the Senkakus, to knock this claim is especially delightful. I wonder what kind of signal the Cohen/Van Dyke piece sends to our ally Japan and our rival China, hosted as it is on the website of the major US foreign policy organization.

A publication on a related island reached my inbox today, this one on Okinawa, from AJISS, which looks at the changing US posture in Asia....
Due to a recent shift in American policy toward China, Okinawa is becoming of increasing strategic importance to the United States. This was manifested in the power game between Japan, the US and China in the East China Sea triggered by the September collision between a Chinese trawler and Japanese Coast Guard vessels near the Senkaku Islands belonging to Ishigaki city, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. The subsequent visits to Asia by US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are now considered part of the American strategic hedge against (or a containment strategy for) China. The change in American strategy can be traced in a series of strategic documents issued earlier this year.....
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Jon M. Van Dyke said...

The Diaoyu/Senkaku Islets Should Be Ignored in the Maritime Delimitation of the East China Sea
By Jerome A. Cohen and Jon M. Van Dyke (Part 4)
Other recent delimitation decisions have similarly given small islands no effect. In the 1999Eritrea-Yemen Arbitration, the tribunal gave no effect whatsoever to the uninhabited Yemeni island of Jabal al-Tayr and to the uninhabited Yemeni islands in the al-Zubayr group (which are on the “wrong side” of the equidistance line between the two countries in the Red Sea), stating simply that their “barren and inhospitable nature and their position well out to sea…mean that they should not be taken into consideration in computing the boundary line.” Similarly, in the 2001 Qatar-Bahrain Case, the ICJ ignored completely the small, uninhabited, and barren Bahraini islet of Qit’at Jaradah, situated midway between the two countries, explaining that it would be inappropriate to allow such an insignificant maritime feature to have a disproportionate effect on a maritime delimitation line. The Court also ignored completely the “sizeable maritime feature” of Fasht al Jarim, of which “at most a minute part is above water at high tide.”
Other decisions where small islets have been ignored include the 1985 Libya-Malta decision (ignoring Malta’s Filfla Island); the 1978 France-UK Arbitration (ignoring the UK islands of Jersey and Guernsey, despite their substantial population in drawing the boundary in the English Channel); and the 2002 maritime delimitation between the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland (ignoring Nova Scotia’s Sable Island).
Shanghai scholar Ji Guoxing has written that “China holds that the Diaoyudao Islands are small, uninhabited, and cannot sustain economic life of their own, and that they are not entitled to have a continental shelf.” That conclusion is supported by the text of Article 121(3), by the underlying purpose of this provision, and by repeated rulings of the ICJ and other international tribunals.
[Further details on the cases discussed can be found, e.g., in Jon M. Van Dyke, The Romania v. Ukraine Decision and Its Effect on East Asian Maritime Delimitations, 15 Ocean & Coastal Law Journal 261-83 (2010).]

Michael Turton said...

Jon i put up your whole response today, way above this one.