Saturday, September 15, 2012

Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands Dispute

Ms. C.W in Beijing and I made research exchange for many years. Even after both of us retired, friendship has been continuing. Past July, I heard on TV that the heaviest rainstorm in Beijing in six decades has killed at least 37 people and flooded streets. So, I sent her an email message of sympathy. She sent me a reply message on September 1, together with the following postscript in Chinese, "钓鱼岛是中国领土,不容任何人侵占!" These words mean: Diaoyu Islands are China's territory. No one is allowed to invade!

I wrote her as follows:
Thanks for your reply of September 1. I'm glad to hear that you are fine and that students have started the new semester well in Beijing.

I feel sorry that Japanese Government has an opinion different from China about 钓鱼岛 and wish that the problem be solved peacefully by mutual analysis of historical facts.

In reply to this, Ms. C wrote me on September 12 by including the following descriptions of historical facts and a comment, as well as an attachment of a PDF file (in Chinese) of a newspaper article on the history of islands:
Records show that the islands were first found, named and used by the Chinese, and have been included in Chinas’ maritime defense sphere since the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644).

Japan seized the islands through illegal means at the end of the Sino-Japanese War (1894–95), but two key declarations during World War II, Cairo and Potsdam, legally returned the islands to China (1943–).

Japan's stance on the islands is a blatant denial of victory of a global antifascist war and a serious challenge to the post-war international order.

My answer to this was as follows:
Thank you so much for your explanation about China's view about Diaoyu Islands and the attachment of a copy of a Chinese newspaper article.

Surely, Chinas's inclusion of islands in maritime defense sphere in the Ming Dynasty is quite old. The crucial point is which of historical facts, insisted by China and Japan, is truly effective from the viewpoint of the international rule of territory acquisition. This is the problem to be calmly discussed by lawyers and politicians between our countries. So, I do not want to go into discussion with you but give the link to an article about Japanese side view published in "Shimbun Akahata" (daily newspaper published by Japan Communist Party) just for your information:

Heartily wishing the peace between our countries,

After sending the above message, I made a little study of Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute on the Internet (Refs. 1–3) and have learned that even two Japanese historians, at least, state that the islands are China's territory (Refs. 2, 4, 5). The following quote from Ref. 2 should also be noted.
Japan's false claim of its purported "discovery in 1884" of the Diaoyu Islands as uninhibited isles contradicts with the navigation map in its own 1783 historical document, Sankoku Tsuran Zusetsu, published by a prominent scholar Hayashi Shihei clearly stating the area a part of China.

Professor Murata said, "We tend to take the opinion of the government, political parties and media as being the correct views and accept them readily; however, those opinions do not necessarily represent the truth. To us scholars, what is important is what is real, what is true, not the national interest; over this point, political parties and media have the same problem."

From what I have learned, I strongly urge the Japanese Government first to negotiate open-mindedly with China or at the International Court of Justice about this dispute in order to verify if their claim is justified before thinking about defending the islands by force.

  1. Jane Perlez, "China Accuses Japan of Stealing After Purchase of Group of Disputed Islands." New York Times (September 11, 2012) and readers' comments on this article.
  2. Kiyoshi Inoue, "Japanese Militarism & Diaoyutai (Senkaku) Island – A Japanese Historian's View." Web Site Asian Holocaust.
  3. Gavan McCormack, "Small Islands – Big Problem: Senkaku/Diaoyu and the Weight of History and Geography in China-Japan Relations." The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol. 9, Issue 1, No. 1 (January 3, 2011); Japanese version is available here.
  4. 井上清, 「尖閣」列島―釣魚諸島の史的解明 (第三書館, 東京, 1996).
  5. 村田忠禧, 尖閣列島・釣魚島問題をどう見るか―試される21世紀に生きるわれわれの英知 (日本僑報社, 東京, 2004). 和文概要がこちらにある.
Further Reading Added Later
(Minor changes in wording of the main text were made on September 16, 2012.)