Stimson in the News

Alan D. Romberg Comments on the Diaoyutai/ Senkaku Islands Dispute

in Program

Tensions have flared on both sides of the East China Sea,
since the Japanese central government announced its purchase of the Diaoyutai/Senkaku
Islands in early September.  Stimson’s Distinguished
Fellow, Alan D. Romberg, weighed in on the contentious issue and provided the
following commentary:

“While the anti-Japanese demonstrations in China have subsided
over the past two weeks, and both governments want to avoid escalation, Sino-Japanese
relations remain tense and show no sign of improving. Moreover, as
the Coast Guard-escorted flotilla of Taiwan fishing boats that came within
about 3 miles of the islands shows, this involves Taipei as well. (Beijing seeks
to project a common “Chinese” position on this issue, but Ma Ying-jeou has rejected
such collaboration; indeed, one of Ma’s purposes is to obtain a separate and
equal seat at the table as these issues-and those in the South China Sea-are addressed.)
All concerned say history is on their side and that sovereignty is
“indisputably” theirs; Tokyo’s denial that there is a territorial dispute has especially
angered the PRC and Taiwan.

Minister Noda insists his action was not intended to change the “status quo” but that he had no better
alternative than to buy the islands in order to preclude purchase by Tokyo
Governor Shintaro Ishihara, well-known for his anti-China sentiments, who would
likely have taken even more provocative steps such as construction of a pier
and lighthouse on the islands.  However, Beijing
rejects this claim, even arguing there was a political conspiracy between Noda
and Ishihara. 

Although the situation remains volatile, all sides can take steps
to help restore a reasonable equilibrium. 
could reiterate public assurances that it is not going to build any structures or
allow any landings on the islands, and that it will strictly enforce these
rules. Crucially, Japan could also say that, while its claim is absolute, it
recognizes that others disagree with this position. 

Beijing and Taipei could then dismiss Noda’s purchase as irrelevant political theater. To avoid
potential clashes, Beijing would need to reverse its recent decision to “regularly patrol” waters around the

the underlying sovereignty issue will not be resolved anytime soon, Tokyo and
Taipei need to work towards finalizing a fishery agreement like the one Japan
has with Beijing allowing Mainland fishermen to operate in the Japanese
EEZ.  Tokyo has agreed to renew fishery negotiations
with Taipei (suspended since 2009), but this is not expected to occur for a
while.  Although Ma Ying-jeou has called
for Japan to acknowledge that a dispute exists, expediting conclusion of a
fisheries agreement would help management of the controversy in Taiwan.”

To speak
with Alan D. Romberg, please contact us at [email protected]




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