Senkaku Island Dispute

The following essay lays out the problem of the dispute over the Senkaku islands. It begins with a detailed background of the dispute, tracing back to the early 14th century up until modern times, and the three separate claims to the islands from China (People’s Republic of China), Taiwan (Republic of China) and Japan. This is then followed by four different policies on what the United States can do in response to problem at hand. The following options range from full-scale military invention and completely tactical warfare to economic joint development of the disputed areas.

The conclusion of the essay will list the faults within three of the polices put in place and argue why only one policy will be the best possible outcome for the United State of America. Background of the Problem The Senkaku Islands are a series of eight islands in the East China Sea, these islands consist of five islands that are uninhabited and the remaining three are small desolate rocks.

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The dispute over theses eight islands is between main land China (People’s Republic of China), Taiwan (Republic of China) and the island of Japan. Currently Japan holds “residual sovereignty” over the islands, according to the United States.

Each of the three countries have different reason for claiming the islands but, no matter who is the rightful owner, the US must come up with a policy to stop the dispute. Currently the US is in the mists of this crisis because of the 1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, and the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, these basically stating that Japan has administrative control over the islands and that the US would come to the aid of Japan if any country attacks, tries to occupy, or take control of the islands.

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Mainland China and Taiwan’s claim to the islands can be traced back to the early 14th century with the their initial discovery, and can been seen as part of the Chinas territory in records tracing back to the Qing Dynasty and even into the Ming Dynasty. The China argues that Japan gained control of the island as a consequence of the First Sino-Japanese War, because the Treaty of Shimonoseki gave Japan control of “The island of Formosa, together with all islands appertaining or belonging to the said island of Formosa”.

The Chinese nor the Japanese claim the islands were given to the Japanese in this treaty but both the Chinese and Taiwanese claim that because of the Sino-Japanese war China eventual had to relinquish control of Taiwan and the Pescadores and this is were the inclusion of the islands fell, granting Japanese control.

On the other hand Japan argues that the islands we not given to them in the treaty and that it claims to have discovered and conquered the islands in the late 19th century before their victory in the Sino-Japanese war. Japan claims that the islands were uninhabited and that there was no sign of the Qing Dynasty ownership of the islands, which according to maritime law leaves them available to whom ever claims them.

In the early years the dispute was not as motivated as it is today, it has caught a lot of attention by all countries participating because the May 1969 report by the United Nations stating, “that one of the world’s largest oil and gas reserves may exist under the seabed near the Senkakus” , this is Japan major argument to why China and Taiwan are claiming the islands because their position did not rise until 1971, clearly in response to the report release by the United Nations.

Since the early period of Japanese control of the islands chain the ownership has switched hands multiple times, beginning with the lease of the islands to the Koga Family as early as 1896 eventually selling the islands to the Koga in the 1930’s. From the period of 1953-1971 the U. S. held administrative control over Taiwan, the Pescadores, the Spratliys and the Paracels, which were all, included in the Treaty of Peace with Japan signed in 1951.

The treaty went on to state that, “Article 3 gave the United States sole powers of administration of “Nansei Shoto south of 29 north latitude (including the Ryukyu and the Daito Islands)…. ” In 1953, the U. S. Civil Administration of the Ryukyus issued U. S. Civil Administration of the Ryukyus Proclamation 27 (USCAR 27), which defined the boundaries of “Nansei Shoto [the southwestern islands] south of 29 degrees north latitude” to include the Senkakus. On June 17, 1971 the Okinawa Reversion Treaty was signed basically giving the Japanese “residual sovereignty” over the islands of Ryukyu and Daito, which encompass the

Senkakus. The Chinese of course claim that proceedings were done as “backroom deals” and are “illegal and invalid”, but the US has tried multiple times to stay out of this dispute but is continually dragged in because the of the two previously mentioned treaties. Over the year numerous incidents have occurred because of Chinas growing discontent over Japans administrative control over the islands. These incidents are seen as a violation of International Naval Regulations, in the eyes of the U. S. ut the Chinese believe that the encroachment polices they are conducting are within their right to take back the land that they rightfully claim. These incidents range from a two People Liberation Army Air Force fighter planes flying near the islands, which caused the Japanese fighters to intercept them, to continuous confrontation with both Taiwanese and Chinese Coast Guards vessel as well as numerous accounts of private fishing vessel in the surrounding waters clear violating Japans sovereignty over the islands and it surrounding waters.

Tensions are continuously rising over these islands, “Between March and November, 47 Chinese ship incursions were recorded. From April to December, the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) scrambled fighters 160 times in response to Chinese aircraft in the East China Sea, up from 156 in 2011. On top of all the maritime disputes occurring both China and Japan are having protest regarding each others policies surrounding these islands, and because of constant pressure from the Chinese, Japan is forced to increase its defense budget by $410 million.

Since the U. S. has public stated its support of the Japanese in this conflict, it is now left with a choice of how to handle this international situation and diffuse it before it escalates to full scale conventional warfare. Options and Analysis The United States initial strategy should of course be one of deterrence and in preserving the status quo, which basically would force both China and Taiwan to relinquish claims of the Senkaku islands.

Achieving this objective is no easy measure and one that will require large amounts of communication and aid from both the U. S. and Japanese governments. In order to insure that Japan will continue to hold administrative control over the islands, all parties must come together in agreement over one signal policy. The first step in this deterrence policy is to bring both main land China and Taiwan together and get them to formally communicate, as well as agree on the policy which the US and Japan will put in place.

Since this is causing public unrest in all countries involved if the participating countries come together and resolve a the dispute over the islands it can dramatically cut down the amounts of protest and resolve the long standing resentment both the Chinese and Taiwanese hold over each other and the even longer disputes that have been held between Japan and China. This is no easy task and it will not be solved with this one resolution but if done correctly it could be a stepping-stone in the long line of a joint Asia.

The purposed policy is one of giving Japan and U. S. oint control over the islands, in order to nationalize the oil production in the area or it can be done through opening up the reserves to petroleum companies in order to gain a profit from the natural resources within the area. Of course Japan would gain a considerably larger amount of the profits than the U. S. would but nonetheless the profit that the U. S. would make will go to aiding both China and Taiwan since they will not stand by and watch as these two world powers drain profit from a region they both claim.

The first response from both China and Taiwan will most likely be to try and gain the most profit from both Japan and U. S. They will do this most likely by threating to invade the island and causing a war which no side wants but obviously, because of all the disputes that are already occurring over the islands, Chinas most likely policy will be to follow through and attack. The path of escalation from both U. S. and the Japanese will so follow because US as the largest naval power will not stand by and watch China violate the treaties it has in place with Japan. This will continue with threats coming from both sides until one will finally decide to back down, in this case it will be the U. S. because it will be the country with the most to loose if war were to break out over these islands.

If war were to break out it would be the worst case for all countries because they will all stand to not only loose countless lives but, large amounts of financial backing in order to support the war will drain both economies and have large domestic backlash. All in all this policy can end in war between China and the joint forces of Japan and the U. S. or in mutual gain economic boost for all countries. Another policy that can come into play is if the U. S. everses its alliance with the Japanese and sides with the Chinese and Taiwanese. This would be due to the fact that in accordance to the pervious disputes over the sovereignty of an island those with the initial claim to the island would be the rightful administrator. Seokwoo Lee an Korean Academic, brings to light the point, “ The Chinese view of sovereignty is, as Suganuma opined, the ‘[b]ased on the long history of Chinese administrative geography, the Chinese had their own way to demarcate legitimate political space and marine space in the East China Sea.

In particular the Chinese created the Sinitic world order by networking their investitures-tributary system to demonstrate the Chinese way of hegemony during traditional periods. ’ To them, history, geography, and actual circumstance have combined to make their ownership of the islands a reality…”. The pervious quotation basically states that China will not stop until it gains administrative control of the islands; because of their belief that they were first to discover the islands, their claim surpasses all others. The problem of course occurs what to do with the Japanese.

To begin with the U. S. must first remove its policy of supporting the Japanese as administrative controllers of the islands, this would basically result in releasing the decision of control over the island to the United Nations. Here with the U. S. and China having the most weight to throw around (within the UN) will easily leave the Chinese in control of the islands because the country can trace its claims to the islands as far back as the 14th century. The problem that will now occur is the discontent from both the Japanese and the Taiwanese.

Although neither country will retaliate with force, both are likely to put sanctions on the U. S. as well as up hold those already in place over China. This will cause the prices of all Japanese and Taiwanese products to skyrocket in price resulting in high amounts of Japanese car sales to dwindle down to nearly nothing, thus dramatically affecting the already volatile U. S. economy. Another aspect that would soon feel the effect of this policy being put in place is U. S. foreign relation with almost every country in which it has treaties with, because it would seem like the U. S. s easily backing out of the obligations it has put in place and has released publicly.

All in all this policy would be effective in granting the Chinese their rightful control over the islands, it would ultimately have large repercussions for the U. S. to deal with. Alternatively, the U. S. can continue with the policy it has in place and support the Japanese, but a slight change must occur. The U. S. although it does not have to do this openly, have to aid the Japanese on polices that they put in place, to compel the Chinese to accept that they are the rightful administrators over the islands.

The first step in the series would be for Japan to start the gradual build up of naval forces around the isles surrounding the Senkaku islands. At the same time the U. S. would be sending over military advisors, supplies, and gradually moving its naval forces closer and closer to the islands. Granted that the Chinese see through this obvious salami tactic they will slowly start to preform the same gradual build up of forces. Leaving both sides at a stalemate, now the Japanese must take a risk and station actual forces on the main island of course to set up a trip-wire effect.

Although the U. S. does not want to conduct in another war, this seems to be the only possible out come of this dispute, “War would not be in the interest of anyone involved — for Japan, a nation whose new leaders are still struggling to stabilize its economy, nor China, a nation weathering massive political and social changes — but neither nation is showing signs of backing down. ” This argument being put in place by Hugh White, former Australian defense official and professor at Australian National University.

Once the U. S. nters into an open conflict with the Chinese and Taiwanese forces, the next step is to try and end the fighting as quickly as possible. Many options come into play here, the US can send a huge naval force and merely over whelm the Chinese or the US can conduct in large amounts of bombing of military forces, basically using the same tactics that it used in the Vietnam, this is a pivotal moment either the Chinese and Taiwanese forces will back down or go down the another possible route of escalation and that is nuclear deterrence.

In the case that the dispute escalates to the point where nuclear weapons are armed, the US must weigh in the options that although Chinas nuclear stockpile is nowhere near the domestic stockpile of the U. S. the act of possessing a nuclear weapon in modern times does little or nothing to either because of the case mutual assured destruction, basically ruling out the use of nuclear weapons. This option is one that will clearly escalate the fast and if the polices are left they way they stand, it seems like this by all measures will be the only possible outcome.

Stalemate doesn’t not result in end of warfare, and the most likely next step is for more aggression on the side of the Chinese because they will be conducting in the policy of burning bridges, because as seen in the pervious option the Chinese see these islands as part of their rightful territory, and will stop at nothing to gain them if the crisis escalates to full scale warfare. If the U. S. is still willing to conduct warfare at this point, the outcome is very bleak.

This option is one that is clearly laid out either warfare will be quick and easy or it will be long and drag out. 4) Final possible policy that the U. S. must take is the one that has slowly begun, but has yet to become concrete due to increase in tensions and delays from both the Japanese and Chinese. This policy was first brought up in 2004 but are continuously stalled and pushed back because of one side believes it should gain more than the other. This policy is one of joint development over the disputed islands and solely those islands.

In the past Japan has tried to gain joint development over a majority of the area where China has incontestable territorial rights, such as the Chunxiao gas field. Japan was basically hoping that if China were to split its resources from the area in which its claims are valid, then it would become clear in the eyes of the international community that Japan is doing the same and Japan has the rightful claim of the Senkaku islands, making Japan look like it is willing to put aside its difference and join up with China in this join development of the oil resources within the East China Sea.

If the U. S. s to participate in resolving the disputes over these islands, it must maintain its position of supporting the Japanese but not at the expense of the Chinese because of the obvious relations with both countries economically. Also, either the U. S. or Japanese forces should put a naval blockade of the islands in place, until an official joint development plan can be put into action. This of course will not be to stop any economic prospects, which both sides wish to obtain, but to merely ease tensions and stop new incidents from constantly arising, causing the already floundering process of joint development to have some brief time to form.

Another option that could come into place instead of the naval blockade over the island could be the already purposed military hotline. The military hotline was purposed as early as 2010, but again due to rising tensions from each side it was delayed, it is obvious both sides hold long standing resentment over each other and this should be the primary goal for the U. S. to get past in the resumed talks over joint development. This military hotline will also help to let both sides be in constant contact with one another in order to be clear if an incident is to occur, of who is provoking it and for what reasons.

Although the U. S. is tied to the Japanese in the case of a military strike of the island it must maintain that neither sides gains the upper hand in the joint development, because this is more than just an economic revenue base for each country, this island dispute can be traced back near a century and hold high amount of national pride. The U. S. along with the United Nations must keep this issue at bay and move quickly to capitalize on this moment in which no incident is occurring to put in place the policies previously stated in order to resolve this conflict and relinquish the U. S. from having to fight another war it will be dragged into.

Cite this page

Senkaku Island Dispute. (2016, Oct 11). Retrieved from

Senkaku Island Dispute

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