With the continuing dispute between China and Japan in the East China Sea, don’t forget to tune into CNAS’s Flashpoints page, an online web portal for those studying security in the East and South China Seas. Flashpoints not only has the latest developments from the region, but offers insights into the rich history surrounding the ongoing territorial disputes in the Asia Pacific.
Photo: Courtesy of CNAS.org.
All eyes are on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her visit to the Asia Pacific this week.
On Tuesday, Secretary Clinton met with officials of the Association of South East Asian Nations, or ASEAN, in Jakarta where she encouraged ASEAN leaders to work cooperatively with China to resolve the longstanding territorial dispute in the South China Sea. “The United States does not take a position on competing territorial claims ... but we believe the nations of the region should work collaboratively to resolve disputes without coercion, without intimidation and certainly without the use of force," Secretary Clinton said, according to a report on CBSNews.com. "That is why we encourage ASEAN and China to make meaningful progress toward finalizing a comprehensive code of conduct in order to establish rules of the road and clear procedures for peacefully addressing disagreements."
The New York Times published a report this morning differentiating between the underlying issues driving competition in the East and South China Seas.
As readers of this blog know well, concerns over access to natural resources are an important driver of competition in the South China Sea. States ringing the sea are competing for territorial claims to potentially rich reserves of oil, natural gas and other mineral deposits.
But in the East China Sea, other issues are in play. The New York Times reminds us: “Unlike in the South China Sea, where the frictions center on competition for natural resources, the East Asian island disputes are more about history, rooted in lingering — and easily ignited — anger over Japan’s brutal dominance decades ago.”
The latest dispute over the uninhabited island group near Taiwan – known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China – began in earnest earlier this year when Tokyo’s Governor Shintaro Ishiara announced that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government was negotiating with private landowners to purchase the islands by the end of 2012. “Under pressure not to look weak in advance of elections, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda quickly said the central government would buy the islands instead,” The New York Times reports. “That set off a tit-for-tat between activists from both countries.”
While there has been a lot of attention given to China’s territorial contests with its Asian neighbors in the South China Sea, just as important is the dispute between Japan and China in the East China Sea, where both countries lay claim to an uninhabited island group near Taiwan – known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China – that are rich with fish stocks, as well as potentially undersea energy and mineral resources.
Until recently, Japan has managed to avoid drawing Beijing into a more aggressive dispute over the island group. Although the islands are technically administered by Tokyo, the government has promoted a strategy that avoids the perception that Japan is attempting to nationalize the islands by renting them from a private landowner and avoiding commercial or private development on the islands.
But this “hands off” strategy has been criticized by nationalist leaders in Japan who are looking to change the current arrangement. According to an April report in the Japan Times, Tokyo’s Governor Shintaro Ishiara said that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government was negotiating with the landowners to purchase the islands by the end of 2012. “Tokyo will protect the Senkaku Islands. No matter which country dislikes it, no one should have a problem,” Governor Ishiara said in April. Since then, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government “has set up a bank account to collect donations for the purchase,” according to The Washington Post, which by some reports collected nearly a billion yen ($13 million) in one month.