Japan defies post-WWII order

Updated: 2012-10-09 08:08

By Li Wei (China Daily)

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Unilateral actions by Tokyo have jeopardized the 'static stability' maintained in waters around Diaoyu Islands

Sept 29 marked the 40th anniversary of the normalization of Sino-Japanese relations. However, the scheduled celebrations were either postponed or canceled amid the escalating tension over the Diaoyu Islands and their affiliated islets. Instead of making sincere efforts to repair its frayed relations with China, Japan clings to its hard-line rhetoric, and Seiji Maehara, former Japanese foreign minister, recently accused China of fabricating and distorting historical facts with regard to the Diaoyu Islands.

Forty years ago when China and Japan negotiated to normalize their diplomatic relations, then-Chinese premier Zhou Enlai and visiting Japanese prime minister Kakuei Tanaka agreed that priority should be placed on the overall interests of bilateral ties and the Diaoyu Islands dispute should be shelved to a later time. This tacit agreement was reiterated by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1978 during his talks with then-Japanese prime minister Takeo Fukuda, and the following year, China formally proposed the concept of "setting aside dispute and seeking joint development" of the resources adjacent to the Diaoyu Islands without touching upon its territorial sovereignty.

The political wisdom shown by generations of leaders from both sides has contributed to the advancement of Sino-Japanese ties, but this hard-won progress has been severely undermined by Japan's unilateral moves this year over the Diaoyu Islands, which it calls the Senkakus.

Be it from a historical, geographical or legal perspective, the islands remain an inherent part of Chinese territory. China was the first country to discover, name and administer the Diaoyu Islands. The dispute actually stems from the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, in which China was defeated and forced to sign the Treaty of Shimonoseki. The Diaoyu Islands were ceded to Japan together with all other islands appertaining to Taiwan. However, the Diaoyu Islands should have been returned to China after World War II, in accordance with the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Declaration, if Japan and the United States had not entered into illicit deals, by which the US handed over the administration in the early 1970s.

On Sept 8, 1951, Japan, the US and a number of other countries signed the Treaty of Peace with Japan, commonly known as the Treaty of San Francisco, in the absence of China. The treaty placed the islands south of the 29th parallel of North Latitude under the US' trusteeship, with the US as the sole administering authority, but the islands placed under the administration of the US did not include the Diaoyu Islands. However, the US Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands issued the Civil Administration Ordinance No 68 (Provisions of the Government of the Ryukyu Islands) on Feb 29, 1952, and the Civil Administration Proclamation No 27 defining the geographical boundary lines of the Liu Chiu or Ryukyu Islands on Dec 25, 1953, which expanded its jurisdiction to include China's Diaoyu Islands. On June 17, 1971, Japan and the US signed the Okinawa Reversion Agreement, which provided that the power of administration over the Liu Chiu Islands and Diaoyu Islands would be "returned" to Japan. The US' moves have no legal validity whatsoever, and China has firmly opposed the backroom deal between Japan and the US.

To solve the dispute, Japan needs to face up to history. But instead the Japanese government has not only denied there's a dispute over the Diaoyu Islands and defied the post-war international order established by the Cairo Declaration and Potsdam Declaration, it has also connived with the provocations of Japan's right wing. In September 2010, Japan illegally detained Chinese fishermen in waters near the Diaoyu Islands and attempted to press charges against them using its domestic laws. In recent months, Japan's farce of trying to "purchase" the Diaoyu Islands, its plan to "nationalize" the islands and the landing on them by Japanese rightists indicate Tokyo's growing inclination toward right-wing politics.

China has been observing the principle of shelving differences and seeking joint development and has managed to maintain "static stability" in the waters off the Diaoyu Islands for years, despite occasional flare-ups. Nevertheless, the unilateral actions by the Japanese this year have jeopardized this "static stability". Under such circumstances, it is important for China to continue to demonstrate its sovereignty by referring to historical documents, legal validity and geographical materials.

More importantly, China needs to adjust its long-held "static stability" strategy and strike a "dynamic balance" with respect to the Diaoyu Islands dispute, namely taking concrete measures to dispel Japan's illusions and defend its territorial sovereignty and regional stability, which is vitally important at this point. Japan has so far failed to muster up courage to admit its war guilt and correct its mistakes, instead Tokyo has repeatedly denied the existence of a territorial dispute over the Diaoyu Islands, and in this sense, China should no longer feel obliged to exercise self-restraint.

To be sure, it is still China's sincere hope that Tokyo can acknowledge the existence of the territorial dispute over the Diaoyu Islands, abort its "nationalization" plan and ensure there will be no more landings on the islands. Only by living up to these expectations can Japan repair relations. But considering the prevailing "hawkish" atmosphere in Japan, Tokyo is likely to dash China's hopes for some time further, and China should remain alert to Japan pushing bilateral relations to breaking point and then seeking other diplomatic interests.

The author is director of the Institute of Japanese Studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

(China Daily 10/09/2012 page8)