China and Japan again rejected each others claims to the islands while trying to keep the rhetoric to an absolute minimum to avoid a confrontation or a breakdown in talks.
Japan is still in the process of acquiring the leases to the islands. The leases expire this year and are held by a Japanese citizen. Source: Reuters
One of the most valuable lessons anyone can learn and something that should be taught more often in political science classes is that there comes a time when it is best to keep your mouth shut. The Japanese politicians usually don’t need a refresher course in this department because they’re always seen as professionals and professionals don’t like spilling secrets and I suppose that is why I am confused at Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s most recent announcement. He announced that his government is interested in pissing China off and potentially disrupting the still uneasy “peace” between the two nations. He didn’t technically say that but what he did say is that the Japanese government has already made a bid on islands that Japan, China and Taiwan contest as their own.
Prime Minister Noda announced that he is interested in nationalizing the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu in Chinese) in an effort to strengthen Japan’s claims to the uninhabited islands. Why fight over uninhabited islands? The areas around the islands are rich in fishing as well as natural gas which China has needed more and more of every year. The islands are also claimed by Taiwan (Taiwan is also claimed by China) but the major flashpoints have been between the two economic superpowers. Noda stated that Japan already controls the islands and according to history and international law they belong to Japan yet he did admit that the government is trying to buy the islands from a private Japanese citizen. The citizen has private ownership over the islands and Japan feels that having ownership over all of the islands will strengthen their claims.
“There exists no territorial issue or ownership issue as Japan is in effective control of the islands.”
“From the viewpoint of how to maintain and manage the Senkakus in a calm and stable manner, we are making comprehensive studies on the matter by keeping in touch with the owner,” Noda told reporters during his visit to the disaster-hit northern Japan.
Not surprisingly China doesn’t agree with the Japanese position nor do they believe that “China’s holy territory” can be bought or sold by anyone unless I assume that person is Chinese. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin also stated that China will “resolutely safeguard the sovereign rights of the Diaoyu Islands and adjacent islets,” which could lead to a military standoff that could see the United States dragged into this affair. The U.S military already leases one of the islands from Japan for training. Out of the 5 main islands, Japan leased all of them over 100 years ago for free but since then 4 have been sold to private owners. The Japanese government pays rent on those islands to ensure that they cannot be sold to a “questionable” buyer which means anyone who speaks Chinese.
Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara acknowledged in April that his city was looking to purchase the islands from the buyer as well and Tokyo had already received over 1.3 billion yen ($16.3 million) in donations for the purchase, which is expected to cost between 2 and 3 billion yen. Ishihara feels the the government isn’t doing enough to protect the islands. Whomever this private citizen is he or she is about to add to their wealth substantially and let’s hope that the Japanese governments rent checks have been on time so that this person isn’t swayed by a little Chinese influence.
I think it was a major mistake for Japan to announce the negotiations because that gives China the ability to not only provide a counter offer but it gives them time to prepare for a conflict in the region. I wasn’t invited to the negotiations so maybe there is a reason for announcing this to the world but I don’t see a positive outcome. Maybe the announcement was to let the world know they’re buying the islands so that the world, the exception being China of course, knows that the islands are theirs? Even with Japan regaining full ownership of the islands there are still going to be disputes over the islands and the valuable resources around them. Personally I think Japan is making a move to regain ownership so that they can take the matter to court. It’s no secret that China claims far more ocean than any nation is allowed by international law and that China regularly causes international incidents over the territory that isn’t legally theirs. The problem is that Japan can buy her islands back but China can buy the court.