Wednesday, February 05, 2014

JapanFocus: The (Wrong) Origins of the Senkaku Mess

JapanFocus, a progressive website that turns out lots of interesting stuff on Okinawa, on Japanese colonialism, and on Cold War and post-Cold War history and politics in NE Asia, put on a fine display this month of the way lefties often adopt the right-wing imperialism of non-western nations as their analytical stance, something that needs to stop. In The Origins of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Dispute between China, Taiwan and Japan, Mark Seldon and Yabuki Susumu write:
...While other important issues add to the gravity of the conflict, including enlarged territorial claims by China, Japan and Korea in the form of advancing and defending competing claims to ADIZ in the East China and South China Seas, Yabuki shows the long trajectory of competing claims over the Senkaku dispute and the evolving policies of China, Japan and the United States in shaping it. Since so much of the international discussion of the issues has focused on China-Japan conflict, a particularly important contribution of the present paper is its clear presentation of US recognition at the highest levels of the significance of the competing territorial claims, and its maneuvering in negotiations with Taipei, Tokyo, and Beijing to shape the outcome.

The story can, of course, be traced back to earlier claims to the islands, including historical interactions involving Taiwan and Okinawan fishermen and Chinese tributary missions, to Japanese claims to the islands, and to their disposition by the US in framing and implementing the San Francisco Peace Treaty...
The article then goes on to show how the US manipulated things to preserve the Chinese claims and how the Chinese manipulated the US, probably because Kissinger, who was running the show at the time (he would later go on to establish profitable business relations with China), was so irredeemably pro-China and because of the general historical ignorance and laziness of Americans: nobody on the US side appears to have researched the Chinese claims to see whether they were actually correct. For example, a memo from John Holdridge reproduces the Chinese nonsense claims without comment and says:
John H. Holdridge’s Comment reads as follows:

As you can imagine, the Japanese Government has a comparable list of apparently offsetting arguments and maintains simply that the Senkakus remain Japanese. State’s position is that in occupying the Ryukyus and the Senkakus in 1945, and in proposing to return them to Japan in 1972, the U.S. passes no judgment as to conflicting claims over any portion of them, which should be settled directly by the parties concerned.

After reading this memorandum, Kissinger immediately handwrote the following comment in the margin: “But that is nonsense since it gives islands to Japan. How can we get a more neutral position?”
Don't miss the conversation between Kissinger and the ROC representive reproduced in the article; it's high comedy.

Going back to the introduction, readers familiar with China's nonsensical claims to the Senkakus can see how in the introduction Seldon and Susumu have completely and uncritically swallowed them. I posted some comments there, but (naturally) they were nuked.

I should add that one of my projects for this vacation is translating and commenting on the great website 為什麼釣魚台是日本的. It has been taken down, but I have it in reserve and hopefully sometime in the next couple of months will be able to reproduce it in full and in English. It's stuffed with little gems that show that no rulers of China ever thought of the Senkakus as Chinese. A sample:

Qing representative Li Jing-fang was responsible for the handover to Japan. Li Jing-fang was concerned that the coastal islands of Fujian were also included in scope of things ceded and hoped that the Japanese side would submit an inventory of Taiwan affiliated islands. Mizuno Jun [head of administration of first Japan gov't of Taiwan and participant in 1874 invasion, pic here --MT] said that compliance meant that if the islands were listed by name, there will inevitably be omissions or problems involving nameless islands. Then there will be islands not belonging to either party, resulting in trouble. Moreover, the island of Taiwan and its affiliated islands were already recognized on the charts and maps of the Japanese side. Li agreed that the islands affiliated with Taiwan should not be listed individually by name and the two sides later signed the instrument of the transfer of Taiwan.
Note first that neither side mentioned the Senkakus as they worked out the handover of Taiwan to Tokyo. Had the Qing or the Japanese considered the Senkakus to be part of Taiwan, they certainly would have been mentioned, but of course neither side did. I linked to the LeGendre map yesterday. It is typical of all western maps of Taiwan in the 19th century -- none included the Senkakus as islands traditionally thought to be part of Taiwan, like Green Island or the Pescadores/Penghu. No one, Chinese or foreign, considered the Senkakus to be Chinese until after the possibility of oil under the sea floor was announced in the late 1960s. It's really that simple, and anyone who writes on the "origins" of the Senkakus mess is churning out ideologically-driven propaganda if they write or imply anything else.

UPDATE: See also this post.

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Shauming said...

The article then goes on to show how the US manipulated things to preserve the Chinese claims and how the Chinese manipulated the US, probably because Kissinger, who was running the show at the time (he would later go on to establish profitable business relations with China), was so irredeemably pro-China
You have found the origin of Senkaku mess.

yankdownunder said...

China-Japan Territorial Conflicts and the US-Japan-China Relations in Historical and Contemporary Perspective

Mark Selden: In discussing the US-China relationship or Chimerica, you note the 200-strong US delegation that visited Beijing at the very moment that the US was toppling the DPJ administration of Hatoyama Yukio as evidence that the US will not back Japan in the current dispute with China over Diaoyutai/Senkaku Islands.

It's obvious that these 2 China "scholars" love Chinese money as much as Kissinger and are talking trash for one rea$on.

Michael Turton said...

I don't think they are taking cash from Beijing. Their ideological positions mean that they have given themselves away to Beijing for nothing.


On Top Of The Wall said...

From: "none included the Senkakus as islands traditionally thought to be part of Taiwan"
Smay I assume you are defending that Senkakus are basically Japanese and rejecting both Chinesa and Taiwanese (ROC) claims to them?
Sorry, you don't mention that Taiwan is also lying claim to them in the article and I am a bit confused.

Michael Turton said...

There is no "Taiwan" claim, that's the ROC, identical to the Chinese claim. The Senkakus were terra nullius when the Japanese picked them up, as Tokyo claims, and are thus Japanese AFAIK.


Anonymous said...

The only country that had a solid historic claim on the Senkakus would be the Ryukyu Kingdom. Whichever country absorbed the Ryukyu Kingdom gets these rocks.

Why do you think there are people in China now advocating the Japanese annexation of Okinawa was illegal?

Michael Turton said...

Right-wingers in China have been screaming about losing Okinawa for decades. The Senkakus are interlinked with the coming claim to that island.