US needs balanced Asia policy

Updated: 2013-12-06 07:19

By Colin Speakman (China Daily)

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The Cairo Conference held 70 years ago between leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom and China, resulted in a declaration broadcast through radio on Dec 1, 1943, that all the territories Japan had taken from China such as northeastern China and Taiwan, including the Diaoyu Islands, should be returned to China.

Japan finally signed the Instrument of Surrender on Sept 2, 1945, and by doing so accepted the terms of the Potsdam Proclamation of July 26, 1945. That proclamation stipulated, in clause 8, that the terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out and that Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to four specified islands, which did not include the Diaoyu Islands.

History tells us that the next steps were not so straightforward, especially in relations between China and the US. There followed a testing period in international relations, including an unhelpful 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, which failed to recognize China's territorial interests as both the Chinese mainland and Taiwan were absent.

Equally unfortunate was the decision in 1972 to include the Diaoyu Islands in the scope of the reversion of Okinawa prefecture to Japanese rule, after the latter was placed under US trusteeship in 1945. This resulted in the current situation, in which the disputed islands are seen by the US as being within the range of the application of the Japan-US Security Treaty, while saying that administration does not imply sovereignty.

It was the Chinese people who suffered at the hands of the Japanese during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression that started in 1937. As someone who has lived in Nanjing and visited the moving Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum, it is not hard to understand the pain and suffering of the Chinese people when Japanese troops killed about 300,000 Chinese nationals, including women and children, in Nanjing, then China's capital, in two weeks in December 1937. It is equally hard to understand why Japanese leaders, in the face of overwhelming evidence, often deny the scale of the Nanjing massacre, claim that Korean sex slaves worked willingly and continue to worship at the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors World War II criminals. This is in stark contrast to Germany apologizing for its World War II crimes.

Yet China remains focused on peaceful resolution of disputes - and the Diaoyu Islands have been a disputed territory for more than 30 years - and has been willing to put the islands' issue on the back-burner for later generations to address, as Deng Xiaoping suggested, "when there is more wisdom" and perhaps when global interconnections make unnecessary friction clearly undesirable.

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