Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Taiwanese Are Coming Here!

The Asahi Shimbun is reporting that 10 of the reported 50 to 70 Taiwanese fishing vessels that departed Yilan on Monday have breached the 12 nautical mile territorial waters limit surrounding the Senkakus, accompanied by 6 vessels of the Taiwan coast guard. (J)

The entry of the Taiwanese flotilla into the mix represents a dangerous excalation of the conflict over the Senkakus. The government of Taiwan has previously indicated a preference to stay out out of the current Sino-Japanese jousting over the territorial waters about the islands. Any kind of incident involving the Taiwanese ships will provide a pretext for the Chinese to further raise the elevel of rhetoric and increase the intensity of their confrontation with the Japanese Coast Guard over the marine borders, under the guise of "protecting our Chinese brothers."

The interestingle parallel/precedent involves Taiwan. In 1874, otherwise unemployable members of Japan's Imperial Army and Imperial Navy were dispatched on a punitive expedition against aborigines on Taiwan. These aborigines had, in 1871, attacked and killed the survivors of the wreck of the shipwreck on their shores of a Ryukuan Kingdom ship. The Japanese government, which has de jure but not de facto incorporated the islands of the Ryukyuan Kingdom into Japan, went to Beijing to protest the Chinese government's failure to punish the aborigines.

The Chinese government blundered thrice: first in arguing against Chinese responsibility, as the aboriginals were outside its jurisdiction, and twice and more importantly; allowing the Japanese government to speak on behalf of the Ryukyuans, who were at the time still an independent tributary state of the Chinese; and finally in paying the Japanese an indemnity to just go away, implicitly recognizing the invasion as a legitimate act.

The result of the Chinese ignoring the finer points of international law (perhaps thanks to self-serving bad advice from the British Government) was the loss of Chinese claims on the Ryukyus and the Ryukyuan Kingdom's tragically rapid absorption into the Empire of Japan (1879).

If the government of Taiwan is not careful and does not quickly rein in this fleet of vigilante fisherfolk, it might just as well be opening up the door for a PRC protective intervention and an inadvertent Ryukyuanization of the what China traditionaly labels a rebelious island province.

1 comment:

Avery said...

That's a great historical lesson. It teaches you something about the state of diplomacy in both China and Japan at that time.