In much of the print, online and broadcast reporting in this blessed land, Yang's use of the word "stolen" was depicted as the Chinese government losing its senses. The evening sports rag Sports Nippon, no stranger to hyperbole itself, was dumbfounded:
This was not North Korea or Iran -- this was China, a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, using this fiery (gekiretsu) expression. It is beyond precedent.Osaka mayor Hashimoto Toru, hearing of the use of the expression "stolen", tweeted on 28th:
Be that as it may, this shows China's lack of class. If it had been me that they said this to, that would have been the end of it. This shows that they are still a long way from acting in an honorable manner in global terms. That at the UN General Assembly, to use an expression like 'stolen' toward a sovereign state like Japan...Japan must retort vehemently."
Some in Japan knew that Yang's use of the word "stolen" in his UN speech was not a verbal misstep or a sudden leap in tone. China's State Oceanic Administration on September 20 had released a handbook making exactly the same claim about the islands.
The standard joke one would use in this instance to deflate the tension would be:
"The islands were 'stolen' – that's a technical term, of course. Ha, ha."
What is unfunny is that "stolen" is indeed a technical term. Saying the Senkakus were "stolen" brings them under the purview of the Cairo Communique, which states:
"...Japan shall be stripped of all the islands in the Pacific which she has seized or occupied since the beginning of the first World War in 1914, and that all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa, and The Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China."That a close reading of the Cairo Communique would find the niggling problem that the Republic of China is still around, ruling Taiwan, can be and is being glossed over the government of People’s Republic. (E)
As to returning to the status quo ante, the ante has been raised for the government of Japan.
The PRC government is aware that Japan annexed the Senkakus in January of 1895, before the signing of the Treaty of Shimonoseki which ceded Taiwan and the Pescadores to Japan. By declaring the Senkakus as "stolen" China has pushed the application of the Cairo Communique backwards in time, prior to the commonly accepted boundary line of April 17, 1895, the date of the signing of the treaty ending of the First Sino-Japanese War.
If the Senkakus are classed as "stolen" the next logical step is to class Okinawa in the same way.
This is not paranoid right wing fantasy. The China Daily, in talking about the status of the Senkakus, is unabashed about declaring Chinese claims on Okinawa as superceding Japanese ones:
Japan took the Liu Chiu Islands, which Japan calls Okinawa, by force from China in 1874, when the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) was at war with several countries. The Diaoyu Islands, though, remained under the administration of Taiwan. Following China's defeat in the Sino-Japanese War in 1894-95, the Qing government ceded Taiwan, including its subsidiary islands, to Japan.Before plunging too deeply into extreme scenarios involving Okinawa, the unanchored use of the word “stolen” in the Cairo Communique is the source of the GOJ’s inability to admit even the existence of a sovereignty dispute over the Senkakus. The moment the GOJ ever admits that a dispute exists, the Cairo Communique comes into effect.
Togo Kazuhiko has been going around advocating that the government of Japan indeed admit the existence of a dispute (E) -- this in order that there be symmetry in between the GOJ's approaches to the dispute with South Korea over Dokdo/Takeshima and the fight brewing over the Senkakus. That the former head of the Treaties Bureau (service: 1998-99) would fail to appreciate the triggering of the Cairo Communique is flabbergasting.
In addition Foreign Minister Yang’s speech in New York and the State Oceanic Administration handbook, the Chinese government's September 10 demarcation of territorial waters baselines including the Senkakus makes clear that the government of China has no intention of returning to the status quo ante. The baseline declaration requires that Chinese constabulary forces conduct uninterrupted surveillance and security patrols in and about the islands, meaning that JCG and various Chinese government vessels are condemned to a series of confrontations in what Japan considers its territorial waters, non erit finis (E).
Hence the absurdity of the breathless daily reports of Chinese ships entering Japan's territorial waters about the Senkakus.
"Let's all calm down, take a deep breath and remember what is at stake here" punditry notwithstanding, China is pushing hard to undermine Japan’s jurisdiction over the Senkakus, using such tools as exist in its own domestic law, international law and World War II declarations.
The Rubicon is crossed. So what are Japan and its treaty ally the United States going to do about it?