Monday, August 20, 2012

Senkaku Irritation Level Rises

Good lord. I leave for a few days and all hell breaks loose in the Senkaku Islands.

The story of this mess is quickly told. A group of right-wing Chinese actually managed to land on the Senkakus despite Japanese obstruction and plant PRC and ROC flags there. Officials of the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou -- you remember him, the pragmatic one (O what romantic tales were told in the golden naivete of our youth) -- spoke approvingly of the appearance of the ROC flag on the Senkakus. Japanese rightists, not to be outdone, immediately riposted with their own flag....
About a dozen members of the right-wing group Gambare Nippon (“Hang In There, Japan”) swam ashore, an Agence France-Presse (AFP) journalist witnessed, from a 20-boat flotilla carrying activists and lawmakers.

The landing comes just days after Tokyo deported pro-Beijing protesters who had landed on the island, part of a chain administered by Japan, but claimed by China, which had warned against acts “harming” its territorial sovereignty.
Next -- I'm not making this up -- the Taiwan government summoned the Japan ambassador to protest this incident of Japanese landing on a Japanese island. The ROC claims it owns the Senkakus, a manufactured claim coined in the early 1970s, like the PRCs, after Japanese scientists announced the potential for oil in the seabed below. Prior to that time, as anyone can find out for themselves, neither Chinese government had considered the Senkakus to be Chinese. Since 1895, when Japan first grabbed them.

Aside: hopefully this Senkakus-are-ours nonsense behavior will forever put a stake in the zombie idea that the KMT and Ma Ying-jeou are "pragmatic." I've got a great idea! Let's call in the Japanese ambassador and upbraid him! Because that's just so fewking pragmatic! But you and I both know that reporters and commentators nattering about KMT pragmatism will continue to write as if the Senkakus were an island group located on one of Jupiter's moons that demonstrated nothing about KMT behavior.

Back to the story. Anti-Japanese protests broke out in China (WSJ's excellent piece). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs recycled bogus arguments to claim Japan "stole" the Senkakus and said Japan was "furtively occupying" them.

Furtively occupying! Laugh if you may, but this represents a rise in the level of rhetoric....

I know by now your head is spinning and you are groping for whatever painkillers and alcohol are near at hand. So let's point out a few things....

The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs spoke approvingly of Chinese right-wingers putting the ROC flag on the Senkakus. TT reports:
“We thought that the appearance of the ROC national flag on the islands was in accordance with our sovereignty claims over the Diaoyutai Islands,” Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tung Kuo-yu (董國猷) said.
As the Taipei Times pointed out, this skirts close to cooperation with China on the Senkaku claim, something the ROC government has said it would not do. This kind of behavior, especially coupled with the government's upgrading of its defenses on the islands it occupies in the South China Sea (a move one expert argues means that it will no longer put up with being ignored by the other claimants) also gives lie to Ma's 2008 promise -- O what romantic tales were told in the golden naivete of our youth -- that Taiwan would be a peacemaker not a troublemaker. You can look for that one in the memory hole too, next to the entry for pragmatism. It's a solid bet that no one in the international media will raise a peep about that.

Probably the least provocative thing the government has done is suggest an essay competition on the issue....

I'm not the only one who has noticed the government's apparent strategy here. I didn't have a chance to comment on it but Apple Daily ran a piece last week arguing that the government is using the Senkaku issue to irritate Taiwan-Japan relations. Yep. Recall that with the beef issue DOA, the Ma government was temporarily out of irritants to perturb its relations with the US. Making trouble in the Senkakus hits both nations at once....
  • US and Japan have a security treaty. If war breaks out over the Senkakus, the US is pledged to defend Japan and has placed the Senkakus under the umbrella of that treaty. Making trouble in the Senkakus dangles that possibility before US eyes. Remote, but there it is.
  • Flogging the Senkaku issue also dangles another appalling possibility before US eyes: that of Taiwan-China cooperation on political and military issues, especially related to Chinese territorial expansion. Of course there is no public support for such actions in Taiwan and the chance of such cooperation is remote, but whether Washington will understand that in an election year when attention spans are narrowing drastically as the election looms is another question
  • It is obvious that kvetching at Japan over the Senkakus irritates Taiwan-Japan relations. Wasn't it especially pettily delightful to summon the Japanese Ambassador? How they must have enjoyed that, like small children furtively knocking over someone else's sand castle on the beach.
In the short term it is likely that this will blow over, as it did a couple of years ago when a Chinese "fishing boat" skipper rammed a Japanese ship in the area. However, with China expanding its military and Japan determined to defend its sovereignty over the Senkakus, the long-term prognosis doesn't look good.

MEDIA NOTE: The international media is studiously avoiding commenting on the history of the dispute. This creates a false balance between Tokyo and Beijing that, by omitting the spuriousness of China's territorial claim, actually serves Beijing by giving its claim the same weight as Japan's....
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9 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is one of the stupidest KMT fvck-ups that I've seen in a long time.

It is hard to understand how so many smart & decent Taiwanese can still support the KMT after all that has been said and done. Cognitive dissonance on steroids.

Anonymous said...

Off topic...

Where did that Lin scandal go?

Taiwan has an outrageous kickback scandal implicating the second highest office in the land, and it doesn't even make a blip on the radar of Taiwan's trial by public opinion media.

The milked Chen Shui-bian for months and years.

Jerome Besson said...

Taiwan would have a historical claim to the Senkakus, based on Japan having attached the Senkakus adminitratively to Gilan county.

But for this connection to be revived, Japan would have to resume full sovereignty over its inalienable territory, Taiwan.

Andrew Chen said...

I find it ironic that China is getting worked up about a tiny insignificant island, which in the decades prior meant nothing but a big piece of rock, when the real land grabber from the Chinese people in the last century has been Russia. Ching as a concession gave up a big chunk of its Northeastern territory to the Tsar in the 1800s, followed by Stalin when he encouraged Mongolia to permanently break away from the then Republic of China in the 30s. I believe the Soviets had even stationed armor divisions in Mongolia to protect its interest during the height of the cold war.
This is the elephant in the room that nobody talks about.

And conversely in a strange reason I believe the same is also true for Japan; that the government somehow doesn't feel as resigned about Senkaku as they do toward Kuril perhaps illustrate the realpolitik behind this. That is, you can only pick a fight you have any chance of winning; doing anything else will simply expose the weakness of your position.

And to that point Taiwan (once again) finds itself in an awkward position, with her security and commercial interests divided almost mutual-exclusively along the two arch-competitors; anything Taiwan postures will only invite blowback from the other side.

Jeff said...

As stated above, I know this is off topic, but where did the Lin scandal go? I've been searching everywhere for news on this and have found none. It's been a month since anything regarding this scandal has been said. The way it abruptly ended was just unnatural and suspicious. Michael do you have any news on this or are there any forums discussing this still?

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering how I can go about sailing to the Senkakus and planting my own flag there.

Kaminoge said...

@Jerome Besson:

Are you certain that the Senkakus were ever administered by Yilan County? For the longest time the claim was made by the Taiwanese side that a Japanese court supposedly ruled circa 1940 the islands belonged to Giran instead of Ishigaki, but apparently no evidence exists of any such ruling ever having been handed down.

Jérôme Besson said...

Your point is well taken, Kaminoge.

Prior to hugging the digital keyboard of my Samsung Galaxy Mini to swype this response, I indulged myself into a quick search on the issue.

And, indeed, not the flimsiest thread of information available to verify my allegation. As an issue, the dispute over the Senkakus amounts to that other lingering one.

Which country has the most valid claim over the oil rich French Fries?

I found the content of the url below most helpful.

http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/asia-paci/senkaku/qa_1010.html

Kaminoge, my thanks for the opportunity to learn and my bonjour from just South of the border, in mosquitoes-infested Valenciennes, fr..

Steve said...

I believe in a tit-for-tat response. Since the Chinese protesters were deported back to China, then the Japanese protesters should be deported by the Japanese government back to Japan. That'll show 'em!