Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sovereignty Matters

The Chinese government called off a meeting between Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Kan Naoto at the last minute yesterday. The Chinese side held that the atmosphere for the talks had been ruined by certain statements by Japanese diplomats.
China says talks with Japan have been 'ruined'

A summit involving Japan and China was in jeopardy Friday after a Chinese foreign ministry official accused Japanese diplomats of making statements that violated China's sovereignty, according to the Chinese state-run news agency.

China and Japan are participating in a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Hanoi, Vietnam, but Japanese representatives made "untrue statements about the content of a meeting between Chinese and Japanese foreign ministers held earlier in the day," the Xinhua news agency said.

Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue said that "the Japanese move ruined the atmosphere for leaders from the two sides to conduct talks in the Vietnamese capital."

Japanese media are framing the dispute a different way, saying that Hu told Hong Kong media that Foreign Minister Maehara Seiji was directly responsible destroying the mood that could have led to a summit meeting.

"The truth was that the diplomatic authority of Japan, in cahoots with other nations, tried to create (noise) on the issue of the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea in the lead-up to the summits between ASEAN and its partners," Xinhua reported. (CNN -ibid)
"Creating (noise)" is not quite the word that the Japanese press is reporting. The Chinese phrase is translated as mushikaesu -- "to reheat" -- an issue.

It is not hard to figure out which nation the Japanese diplomatic authority was "in cahoots" with the most in reheating the issue of who has authority over the Senkaku/Diaoyutai Islands:

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible) Deguchi with Kyodo News Service. First a question for Secretary Clinton, and this is about security. Recently – this is about Senkaku Islands, which has (inaudible) spat between Japan and China. And I wonder if the security treaty between Japan and the United States will be applied.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say clearly again that the Senkakus fall within the scope of Article 5 of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. This is part of the larger commitment that the United States has made to Japan’s security. We consider the Japanese-U.S. alliance one of the most important alliance partnerships we have anywhere in the world and we are committed to our obligations to protect the Japanese people...


FOREIGN MINISTER MAEHARA: (Via interpreter) There was a question about the Senkaku Islands and rare earth minerals. As I have been saying, Senkaku Islands, in terms of history and international law, are inherent territory of Japan and have – we have had (inaudible) control over the islands and will continue to do so.

Today, Secretary Clinton repeated that the Senkaku Islands would fall within the scope of the application of Article 5 of the bilateral security treaty. That was very encouraging.
All these quotes are from the press availability Maehara and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had on October 27 in Honolulu. No shading of meaning, no "nothing has been fully resolved" as regards sovereignty. Just a clear and blunt statement to the Chinese that for the United States at least the Senkakus are Japanese territory -- no, ifs, ands or buts about it.

It is perhaps not fair that Maehara is blamed for destroying the mood in advance of the summit. After all, he was not the one who asked the question and he had no control over how Secretary Clinton chose to present the U.S. position.

Nevertheless, he should know that he is the focal point of Chinese attention, after having called the Chinese government response to the September 7 fishing boat captain incident "hysterical." He clearly did not have to stick the knife at the end of the press conference as regards China's on-again, off-again embargo on the exports of rare earth elements to Japan:
With regard to the rare earth minerals, as Secretary Clinton stated earlier, even if this problem did not exist, to rely for 97 percent of the – these resources on China, as we look back, was certainly not appropriate and therefore we have to diversify the sources of rare earth minerals. And here again, Japan and the United States will closely cooperate with each other in order to engage in more diversified rare earth minerals diplomacy.
While cheering on Japan-U.S. cooperation probably won Maehara kudos in Washington, it could have only made the Chinese steaming (the mushi of mushikaesu means "to steam") mad at the foreign minister.


Anonymous said...

Yes, but then, to respond to the question in any other way would be inviting further problems. This is the essence of deterrence, no?

Anonymous said...

So, the Chinese are steaming ("fuming"?) because the U.S. has a security agreement with Japan? Next, the Chinese kids will start to demonstrate against the U.S.?

Anonymous said...

chinese kids demonstrating against the US? BRing it!

Yet Another Anon said...

Per chance have you noticed that the Tea Party candidates in the US do not speak about foreign policy? They talk about "sovereignty."

Rand Paul maintains that the US should not be beholding to any foreign institutions or laws.