US needs bal­anced Asia pol­icy

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

The Cairo Con­fer­ence held 70 years ago be­tween lead­ers of the United States, the United King­dom and China, re­sulted in a dec­la­ra­tion broad­cast through ra­dio on Dec 1, 1943, that all the ter­ri­to­ries Ja­pan had taken from China such as north­east­ern China and Tai­wan, in­clud­ing the Diaoyu Is­lands, should be re­turned to China.

Ja­pan fi­nally signed the In­stru­ment of Sur­ren­der on Sept 2, 1945, and by do­ing so ac­cepted the terms of the Pots­dam Procla­ma­tion of July 26, 1945. That procla­ma­tion stip­u­lated, in clause 8, that the terms of the Cairo Dec­la­ra­tion shall be car­ried out and that Ja­panese sovereignty shall be lim­ited to four spec­i­fied is­lands, which did not in­clude the Diaoyu Is­lands.

His­tory tells us that the next steps were not so straight­for­ward, es­pe­cially in re­la­tions be­tween China and the US. There fol­lowed a test­ing pe­riod in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions, in­clud­ing an un­help­ful 1951 San Fran­cisco Peace Treaty, which failed to rec­og­nize China’s ter­ri­to­rial in­ter­ests as both the Chi­nese main­land and Tai­wan were ab­sent.

Equally un­for­tu­nate was the de­ci­sion in 1972 to in­clude the Diaoyu Is­lands in the scope of the rev­er­sion of Ok­i­nawa pre­fec­ture to Ja­panese rule, af­ter the lat­ter was placed un­der US trustee­ship in 1945. This re­sulted in the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, in which the dis­puted is­lands are seen by the US as be­ing within the range of the ap­pli­ca­tion of the Ja­pan-US Se­cu­rity Treaty, while say­ing that ad­min­is­tra­tion does not im­ply sovereignty.

It was the Chi­nese peo­ple who suf­fered at the hands of the Ja­panese dur­ing the War of Re­sis­tance Against Ja­panese Ag­gres­sion that started in 1937. As some­one who has lived in Nan­jing and vis­ited the mov­ing Nan­jing Mas­sacre Me­mo­rial Mu­seum, it is not hard to un­der­stand the pain and suf­fer­ing of the Chi­nese peo­ple when Ja­panese troops killed about 300,000 Chi­nese na­tion­als, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren, in Nan­jing, then China’s cap­i­tal, in two weeks in De­cem­ber 1937. It is equally hard to un­der­stand why Ja­panese lead­ers, in the face of over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence, of­ten deny the scale of the Nan­jing mas­sacre, claim that Korean sex slaves worked will­ingly and con­tinue to wor­ship at the Ya­sukuni Shrine, which hon­ors World War II crim­i­nals. This is in stark con­trast to Ger­many apol­o­giz­ing for its World War II crimes.

Yet China re­mains fo­cused on peace­ful res­o­lu­tion of dis­putes — and the Diaoyu Is­lands have been a dis­puted ter­ri­tory for more than 30 years — and has been will­ing to put the is­lands’ is­sue on the back-burner for later gen­er­a­tions to ad­dress, as Deng Xiaop­ing sug­gested, “when there is more wis­dom” and per­haps when global in­ter­con­nec­tions make un­nec­es­sary fric­tion clearly un­de­sir­able.

It was Ja­pan that re-ig­nited the is­sue in Septem­ber 2012 when it an­nounced the “na­tion­al­iza­tion” of the Diaoyu Is­lands. The ac­tion is noth­ing but part of Ja­pan’s greater ag­gres­sive­ness to­ward China.

China has re­al­ized that pas­sively ac­cept­ing Ja­pan’s ag­gres­sive ac­tions would lead oth­ers to be­lieve that no is­sue of ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity is in­volved in the Diaoyu Is­lands dis­pute. So China has rightly re­sponded to the provocation. Ja­pan has had an ADIZ for many years, so China has the right to es­tab­lish one over the ter­ri­tory it claims. When such events oc­cur, it is not help­ful for the US to ap­pear to take sides.

US Vice-Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den is pay­ing a visit to Ja­pan, China and the Repub­lic of Korea this week and, as an ex­pe­ri­enced hand in for­eign pol­icy, he should know that a bal­anced ap­proach to in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions in the re­gion is needed.

By ap­pear­ing too read­ily to sup­port the ag­gres­sor in Sino-Ja­panese is­sues, the US is ex­hibit­ing a lack of un­der­stand­ing of Chi­nese peo­ple’s feel­ings. Also, this does not help the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two most im­por­tant pow­ers of the 21st cen­tury. The Diaoyu Is­lands dis­pute must be re­solved di­rectly be­tween China and Ja­pan. The US and China fought to­gether to de­feat a Ja­pan bent on ter­ri­to­rial ac­qui­si­tion and that les­son of his­tory must not be for­got­ten. The au­thor is an econ­o­mist and di­rec­tor of China Pro­grams at CAPA In­ter­na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion, an UK-US based or­ga­ni­za­tion that co­op­er­ates with Cap­i­tal Nor­mal Univer­sity and Shang­hai In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies Univer­sity.

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