Abe play­ing an un­winnable game

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

Ja­panese PrimeMin­is­ter Shinzo Abe was re­ported to have in­sti­gated G7 to de­nounce China on the South China Sea dis­putes. And he man­aged to do it. On Thurs­day, the G7 lead­ers ex­pressed their “con­cerns” about ten­sions be­tween China and some other Asian coun­tries over re­sources in the East China sea and South China Sea, “warn­ing against any use of force”.

At the just-con­cluded Shangri-la Di­a­logue, or Asia Se­cu­rity Sum­mit, Abe claimed Ja­pan was striv­ing to main­tain peace in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion in par­tic­u­lar and the world in gen­eral, and crit­i­cized China for “not com­ply­ing” with in­ter­na­tional laws to re­solve the South China Sea dis­putes.

Ja­pan is not a party to any dis­pute with China in the South China Sea. So, is Abe try­ing to shift the fo­cus from the Sino-Ja­panese dis­pute over the Diaoyu Is­lands in the East China Sea to win the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity’s sup­port and iso­late China on the world stage? The fact is, de­spite his schematic move, Abe can­not deny that it’s Ja­pan that has vi­o­lated in­ter­na­tional laws and chal­lenged the ex­ist­ing in­ter­na­tional or­der.

As for the East China Sea dis­pute, the Cairo Dec­la­ra­tion and Pots­dam Procla­ma­tion clearly state that Ja­pan should re­turn all Chi­nese ter­ri­to­ries that it had oc­cu­pied be­fore and dur­ing WorldWar II, which in­cluded the Diaoyu Is­lands. The sur­ren­der treaty that Ja­pan signed on Sept 2, 1945 clearly states that Tokyo will honor all the stip­u­la­tions in the Pots­dam Procla­ma­tion. This means China legally re­gained its sovereignty over its lost ter­ri­to­ries, in­clud­ing the Diaoyu Is­lands, way back in 1945.

But Abe claimed at the Shangri-La Di­a­logue in Sin­ga­pore that the Diaoyu Is­lands are Ja­panese ter­ri­tory since they are un­der Ja­pan’s ac­tual con­trol. What Abe doesn’t want to ac­cept is that ac­tual con­trol is not ac­cepted as ev­i­dence of sovereignty over a ter­ri­tory.

China dis­cov­ered the is­lands, and was the first coun­try to name and ex­er­cise ju­ris­dic­tion over them, and it has enough ev­i­dence to prove that. Al­though the is­lands were forcibly an­nexed by Ja­pan from the Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911) in 1895, they were to be re­turned to China af­ter­World War II. So, China’s sovereignty over the Diaoyu Is­lands has been con­tin­u­ous and peace­ful.

In fact, Ja­pan has no right to ob­ject to the Air De­fense Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Zone over the East China Sea that China es­tab­lished out of se­cu­rity con­cerns. Since the width of the East China Sea is less than 400 nau­ti­cal miles (740 kilo­me­ters) and coastal states are en­ti­tled to a con­ti­nen­tal shelf of at least 200 nau­ti­cal miles, it has given rise to the Sino-Ja­panese dis­pute over con­ti­nen­tal shelf boundary de­lim­i­ta­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the UN Con­ven­tion on the La­wof the Sea, states should re­solve dis­putes over over­lap­ping exclusive eco­nomic zones and con­ti­nen­tal shelf boundary de­lim­i­ta­tion through in­ter­na­tional agree­ments. The UNCLOS ad­vises that, if the dis­put­ing coun­tries can­not reach an im­me­di­ate agree­ment, they should avoid tak­ing uni­lat­eral ac­tions to es­ca­late the dis­pute.

How­ever, in con­tra­ven­tion to the UNCLOS, Ja­pan uni­lat­er­ally drewa me­dian line to re­solve the Sino-Ja­panese over­lap­ping con­ti­nen­tal shelf de­lim­i­ta­tion dis­pute, as­sum­ing that China’s con­ti­nen­tal shelf is only 200 nau­ti­cal miles wide de­spite the fact that China’s con­ti­nen­tal shelf is much wider and stretches up to the Ok­i­nawa Trough.

Be­sides, Ja­pan has re­peat­edly crit­i­cized China’s Chunxiao oil and gas field for by­pass­ing the me­dian line, which China has never rec­og­nized, let alone ac­cepted.

As far as the South China Sea is­sue is con­cerned, when dis­putes arise in ap­ply­ing the UNCLOS, the dis­put­ing coun­tries should try to re­solve them through ne­go­ti­a­tions, and when bi­lat­eral ef­forts fail, they can in­vite a third party to act as me­di­a­tor, con­cil­ia­tor and even ar­bi­tra­tor. Since nei­ther China nor any of the other dis­put­ing coun­tries have in­vited Ja­pan to me­di­ate, Abe has no right to poke his nose in the is­sue.

Ja­pan has not only pro­claimed it­self to be a me­di­a­tor and crit­i­cized China, but also echoed the US crit­i­cisms against China. This is a bla­tant vi­o­la­tion of all in­ter­na­tional norms, not least be­cause the dis­put­ing par­ties in the South China Sea are ca­pa­ble of re­solv­ing their dis­putes peace­fully through talks.

In­stead of try­ing to med­dle in other coun­tries’ af­fairs, Ja­pan should re­flect on its mil­i­tarist past and apol­o­gize for its war­time crimes in Asian coun­tries, es­pe­cially China. By try­ing to act as an un­in­vited me­di­a­tor, Ja­pan has lifted a stone only to drop it on its own feet, for Abe’s ploy to re­vive Ja­pan’s mil­i­tarism by play­ing up the “China threat” the­ory is def­i­nitely not go­ing to work. The au­thor is an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at theHainan Provin­cial Party School.

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