The Problem with a Grand Bargain on the Senkaku Islands

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Lately there have been a variety of proposals for cooperative solutions to the Sino-Japanese dispute over the Senkaku Islands, but these proposals seem to suffer from a common problem in that they misapply international law in ways that uniformly disfavor Japan. Today I published a short article with The National Interest to explain this point; it’s available here.



Back From Japan: What I Learned

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Recently I went to Japan as part of a small group of American academics and researchers who are interested in Japanese foreign policy. During the trip, we met with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defense, Coast Guard, and Cabinet Secretariat to discuss recent developments in regional security and U.S.-Japan relations. Unsurprisingly, many of the meetings focused on the Senkaku Islands. In this post, I’ll share a few things I learned.

There’s Still “No Dispute”

During the meetings, it quickly became apparent that some media outlets in the West haven’t accurately characterized current Japanese policy. Tokyo’s longstanding position has been that there’s “no dispute” over the Senkakus—the territory belongs to Japan and there is nothing to negotiate or even talk about. This view is of course controversial in China, which also claims the Islands, and the two sides have been engaged in a fairly protracted and tense standoff as a result. To reduce tensions and improve bilateral relations, China and Japan jointly released a four-point statement on November 7th. Sources ranging from The Diplomat to The New York Times reported the statement as evidence of a significant shift in policy: Japan would now recognize the existence of a dispute. On this view, the recent statement was a major concession to China because recognizing a dispute might open the door to bilateral negotiations that could have only one effect—namely, an erosion of Japan’s effective control over the territory. Continue reading “Back From Japan: What I Learned”

The Drafting History of the Treaty of Shimonoseki

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One of the many contested issues in the sovereignty dispute over the Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands is whether China ceded title to Japan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki. In this post, I’ll briefly explain the competing textual arguments under the Treaty and then explore the question of meaning from an angle that is often overlooked: whether a first-hand, historical account of the Treaty negotiations from a Japanese official named Munemitsu Mutsu favors the contemporary position of either party. Mutsu’s account is valuable to the ongoing debate because he wrote it shortly after the negotiations concluded and, as the Japanese foreign minister and Tokyo’s chief representative at Shimonoseki, he possessed intimate and unsurpassed knowledge of the discussions that occurred. I obtained the account from Kenkenroku: A Diplomatic Record of the Sino-Japanese War, 1894-95, which was edited and translated by Gordon Mark Berger in 1982. Continue reading “The Drafting History of the Treaty of Shimonoseki”

Why China’s ADIZ Has No Legal Significance

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There’s been an avalanche of news on the East China Sea over the past week. As I discussed in my previous post, China recently announced a new Air Defense Identification Zone (“ADIZ”), thereby requiring foreign aircraft flying over the Sea to provide navigation plans and means of identification to Chinese authorities, and to follow any instructions from the same. China’s armed forces “will adopt defensive emergency measures” against any aircraft that fails to cooperate. The reactions have been uniformly negative. Australia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United States have all expressed opposition, while Japan, South Korea, and the United States each sent military aircraft into the ADIZ without notifying China or otherwise complying with the announced rules. Sensing that they had overreached, Chinese authorities subsequently exempted U.S. aircraft as long as they do not “go too far.” Japan, however, is still subject to the ADIZ. My last post explained that the legality of all of this hinges on whether China has title to the Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands that are located within the ADIZ, and on how aggressively China chooses to enforce the measure. Continue reading “Why China’s ADIZ Has No Legal Significance”

China’s New Air Defense Identification Zone

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£¨Í¼±í£©[¶«º£·À¿Õʶ±ðÇø]¶«º£·À¿Õʶ±ðÇø»®ÉèʾÒâͼThree days ago China’s Ministry of National Defense established an Air Defense Identification Zone (“ADIZ”) for the East China Sea. According to the announcement, foreign aircraft operating within the ADIZ will be subject to a couple of requirements: First, they must provide Chinese authorities with various means of identification, including by reporting flight plans, maintaining two-way radio communications and responding in a timely manner to inquiries, displaying clear marks of nationality, and maintaining the operation of any secondary radar transponders. Second, the aircraft must “follow the instructions” of Chinese authorities. If any aircraft fails to provide identification or follow instructions, “China’s armed forces will adopt defensive emergency measures.” The ADIZ is outlined in red in the map above and, most notably, includes the air territory above the contested Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands. Japan has warned that the ADIZ creates a risk of “unpredictable events,” while Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that they are “deeply concerned” about China’s announcement and committed to defending Japan. The obvious purpose of the ADIZ is to further whittle away at Japan’s de facto control over the Islands. In this post, I want to raise two brief points on the legality of this measure. Continue reading “China’s New Air Defense Identification Zone”

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