In a recent comment, one of our readers pointed out:
I thought this is a funny read of a Japanese ‘scholar’ thinks that why ‘Senkaku’ islands belongs to Japan.
I don’t think the conclusion is “funny” at all. I think it’s “serious.” Below is a very quick response (sorry, lots of projects due).
First, to pugster’s credit, I did find many funny – actually perplexing – passages, such as this one.
According to Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, if Japan and China ever agree to refer China’s claim to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands to the Court, the Court shall either apply … the general principle of estoppel….
the most important evidence for judging China’s claim legally is China’s demand before 1970 for self-determination of the U.S.-administered Ryukyu Islands, specifically including the “Senkaku Islands,” with an option of return to Japanese administration.
The Ryukyu people’s struggle against transformation of Ryukyu by the United States into a military base, against enslavement by the United States, and for freedom, liberation, and peace is not isolated; it is inseparable from the Japanese people’s struggle for independence, democracy, and peace; it is inseparable from the struggle of Asian and Pacific peoples and the peoples of all countries of the world to defend peace; therefore, despite the ongoing barbaric repression of the Ryukyu people by the U.S. occupiers, final victory belongs inevitably to the Ryukyu people.
Where did this come from? Using newspaper as the most damning legal evidence for a legal process that neither side recognizes? If it’s the author’s opinion, can you ground a legal case on a author own belief in deranged beliefs?
Isn’t it also ironic how accurately a 1950’s article calling for liberation still ring true today? Ryukyu people’s path to today’s “Okinawa” is actually a path of colonial resistance. Today most “Okinawan” continue to feel oppressed, as second class citizens in a Japan they don’t belong.
There is also this:
China demanded self-determination for the U.S.-administered Ryukyu Islands, with an option of return to Japanese administration, while specifically including the “Senkaku Islands”.
Reading the article over and over again, I don’t see how this conclusion is drawn from the article. The article is focused on expelling the islands that U.S. occupied for military purpose, including the Okinawa and other surrounding islands. It may have touched on diaoyutai, but it was focused on the entire range of islands being occupied by the U.S. It was not focused on sovereignty issues of all these islands. Those are dealt with in other articles, other forums. Does silence on that issue in one article confer the view that the Chinese concedes Japanese sovereignty – albeit as a theoretical option?
If the scholar has any sort of intellectual honesty, he might consult his own country’s court document on the nature of the history he cites. There is for example a case where Taiwan and Ryukyu Islands – both of which then under administration of Japan as militarily expanded throughout Asia – brought a case in the Japanese court system fighting over which “province” had jurisdiction of Diaoyutai. The Court awarded it to Taiwan… a “province” which has since been returned to China (now under the control of ROC).
Of course, there is also the whitepaper recently published by China (as well as the widely cited historian Han Yi’s work) regarding the depth of history regarding these islands that are easily accessible.
Finally, the important stuff, the conclusion that attempts to bypass the bulk of history:
I do not evaluate here Mr. Han-yi Shaw’s selection and interpretation of documents from the nineteenth century and before, because they are irrelevant to the estoppel over the most recently recognized border.
However, for the sake of argument, if Mr. Shaw’s interpretation were entirely correct, than the People’s Republic of China (and less explicitly, the Republic of China on Taiwan) has legally disowned the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands by mistake, through sheer lack of interest in the islands before 1970.
There are several problems.
First, it looks like this the Japanese is premising the entire issue of sovereignty on a news article – more precisely an op-ed. When’s the last time – under international law – that legal status is based on an news article? One article to offset an entire nation’s history? If news articles are so powerful, let’s grab a few more articles from the Chinese side and total them up – let’s based on a consensus reading of all those materials!
It’s true that the Chinese government often states its position through newspaper op-eds. However, just as often (perhaps more often), you get conflicting positions in op-eds. Op-eds can be a channel for the Chinese government to voice its opinion, but it is not the official channel by a long shot. The government in general does not control the opinions in its op-eds and allow a wide range of voices there.
It’s also simply incorrect that China didn’t show any interest in Diaoyu tai before 1970. A good place is for the author to actually read Chinese newspapers, magazines, transcripts of radios and T.V., etc….
Second, even if assuming for argument’s sake that the scholar is right in that China didn’t show any interest in Diaoyu, what did that prove?
China was weak, was in a state of civil war, through much of 20th century. Throughout the 1970’s, whatever the ROC interests, its interest must be subverted to U.S. demands as it depended on U.S. for protection against PRC. The PRC had its own battles to fight, with Russia, Vietnam, India, S Korea, not to mention ROC, constantly undermining PRC sovereignty. Whatever priorities it had, Daioyu tai was not at its very top. At the height of Cold War, many of these issues are subverted compared to the bigger issues reigning that decade.
Third, even if assuming the Chinese people really didn’t obstruct what the U.S. did with Diaoyu tai until 1970, that Japan does in fact took over sovereignty over these islands, Japan need to return it. China and U.S. have signed explicit treaties to return all of Japanese war loot since its industrialization back to China. Silence has never been taken as agreement in International dealings, definitely not of the sort to overturn explicit agreements. Holding on to the Diaoyutai islands falls under holding onto spoils of an unjust war.
But can’t one argue China gave Diaoyutai back to Japan by allowing the U.S. to hand back Diaoyutai to Japan?
When you steal something from someone you beat up, the fact that person does not immediately ask for his stolen goods back, and only asks when he got healthy, doesn’t mean the thief now has legitimate title over the spoil.
And yes, the aggression of Japan against Asia, China included, is an unjust war. And the U.S. and China has signed a treaty to return all Japanese loot. If we need to argue about the norm of Japan returning war loot (we are not even demanding apology for all the massacres and rapes yet), then there is not much to talk about. Perhaps we need a new war to set a new world order, in which Japan is defeated for good and forced to face her history – in which we can all agree to define Japan’s past aggressions as unjust.
Or perhaps Japan can save us from that trouble of war by voluntarily facing history herself, as Germany has done, return all war loot, and allow herself to peacefully join the family of nations and sail into that next world order.