Monday, October 01, 2012

Japan's Strange Ally 2 - The Historical Record (With Footnote)

Ask and thou shalt receive:

I asked in my previous post and in succeeding comments how it possible that the United States could return the Ryukyuan Islands including the Senkakus to Japan in 1972 without taking a position on the ultimate sovereignty over the islands. Thanks to a hyperlink inside a blessedly factual essay by Professor M. Taylor Fravel posted to The Diplomat, I know that the logical impossibility of reverting to Japan control of the Senkakus without taking a stance on sovereignty has annoyed greater minds than mine.

Frankel links to an internal communication of the U.S. National Security Council on the views of the Government of the Republic of China (GRC - i.e., Taiwan). Unsurprisingly, the GRC declares the Senkakus its own, and demands their transfer to the GRC concurrent with the reversion of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty:
—In view of the expected termination of the U.S. occupation of the Ryukyu Islands in 1972, the U.S. is requested to respect the GRC's sovereign rights over the Senkaku Islets and restore them to the GRC when this termination takes place.
Author of the brief John H. Holdridge then provides this comment regarding the State Department's view as to honoring this request:
Comment. As you can imagine, the Japanese Government has a comparable list of apparently offsetting arguments and maintains simply that the Senkakus remain Japanese. State's position is that in occupying the Ryukyus and the Senkakus in 1945, and in proposing to return them to Japan in 1972, the U.S. passes no judgement as to conflicting claims over any portion of them, which should be settled directly by the parties concerned.
O.K. so what?

The "so what?" is in footnote #3, reprinting what then NSC chairman Henry Kissinger wrote in the margin in reaction to Holdridge's comment:
“But that is nonsense since it gives islands to Japan. How can we get a more neutral position?”
There it is -- straight from Henry the K's brain: the official State Department position is nonsense.



Troy said...

there was in fact nothing to "give" in 1971, other than Japan's formal claim it won from China in 1895, as the islands themselves have been deserted since 1940 and have apparently zero inherent economic value.

The title is now held by some family in Saitama apparently. Bully for them.

This is a incredibly silly affair, really.

(Current international law is pretty bogus all around on this score IMO -- like how 3000 fishermen and sheepherders on the Falkland Islands establishes the UK's exclusive claim to maybe $2T worth of mineral wealth to be found off Argentina.)

At any rate, Japan needs China this century a lot more than China needs Japan. I don't understand what the Japanese right is trying to accomplish here, other than look tough vis-a-vis Chinese for domestic purposes.

MTC said...

Troy -

1) The Japanese claim on the Senkakus is not based upon the Treaty of Shimonoseki.

2) On September 11, the Japanese government signed a contract to purchase the three islands in question from the Kuriharas.

3) Again, the use of spots of land to establish EEZs may be bogus in your view. The alternative is chaos and war.

4) Japan is standing up for a vital principle in the way nation-states treat one another: that the undoing of history is a free and voluntary act, not the result of coercion and/or threat.

Troy said...

I didn't say it was part of Shimonoseki, but the claim itself was in fact part of the 1895 expansion of Japan into China's sphere of influence (Korea/Taiwan).

>Japan is standing up for a vital principle in the way

If this were the case then Japan should yield to China. A glance at the map shows this rightfully belongs in China's (mainland and/or Taiwan) economic zone.

>nation-states treat one another: that the undoing of history is a free and voluntary act, not the result of coercion and/or threat.

Sure. I'm not saying the Chinese should threaten violence over the Senkakus.

They're worthless rocks in their littoral. Aside from the difficulties involve in loss of face and having to back down from postures one has assumed ("We stole these fair and square!"), if Japan had any human decency they'd freely and happily let the Chinese have the resources there.

Unfortunately, the 1894-August 5,1945 period of history has been successfully sanitized for the Japanese and they rather completely lack this basic humanity still (unlike the Germans, which almost go to the other extreme in this department).

I sure as hell wouldn't put my life on the line to defend the Japanese claim against Chinese encroachment, and thus do not think we should make this our national security issue at all, but, rather, wish the Japanese luck in sorting this out for themselves.