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Diaoyu Islands are territories of China with full international law support

2012-12-06 10:55


By Mr. Duan Jielong, Consul General of P.R. China in Sydney

Recently, Mr Masahiro Kohara, Consul General of Japan in Sydney, published an article in The Australian, claiming that Japan seized Diaoyu Islands (what they call Senkaku Islands), isles of China, “based upon international law”, and not so honestly listed a selective set of so-called “facts” to paint the Japanese government as a “law-abiding” member of the international community. Yet, what he described in the article ran just counter to historic truth and principles of international law.

Firstly, Mr Kohara deliberately neglected certain points as to whether the Diaoyu Islands were truly “uninhabited” as Japan claimed them to be before its occupation of the islands in 1895. The Japanese government and Mr Kohara know better than anyone else that it was not true at all. The fact is that Diaoyu Islands and its affiliated islands are located to the Northeast of China’s Taiwan Island, and are affiliated to the Taiwan Island. Ancient ancestors in China first discovered and named Diaoyu Islands through their maritime operation and fishery activities on the sea. Since the 15th century there were records of Diaoyu Islands in the ancient documents of China. Diaoyu Islands were also listed into navy defence zone by the Chinese government since Ming Dynasty(16th century). While back then there was still a RyuKyu Kingdom between China and Japan, which was later annexed by the Japan. Though denied by the Japanese government, the international community has long accepted China’s sovereignty over Diaoyu Islands. One example is that the Great Britain marked Diaoyu Islands as part of the China’s territory in A New Map of China from the Latest Authorities, published in Britain in 1811, and also in A Map of China's East Coast: Hong Kong to Gulf of Liao-Tung, compiled by the British Navy in 1877. However, Mr Kohara dubiously wrote that Japan, the near neighbor of China, still considered Diaoyu Islands as “uninhabited” in 1885 and undertook “surveys” of the Islands from that year. Even by-passers on the street could tell what was on their mind at that time. To be honest, there were, and still are, a number of Japanese historians and politicians who with their conscience wrote books and articles acknowledging that the “uninhabited island” theory of Japan does not conform with facts in history. However, the Japanese government simply chose to be economic with these facts and reluctant to show readers the whole picture.

Japan did seize Diaoyu Islands in the name of uninhabited land in 1895, but what actually happened before and after were as follows:

Japan annexed the then RyuKyu Kingdom in 1879 and shortly after started its covert plan to seize Diaoyu Islands from China. By the end of the first Sino-Japanese war in 1895, Japan occupied Lushunkou, a northeastern port of China, then forced the Chinese government to sign the Treaty of Shimonoseki and cede the Taiwan Island and all its affiliated islands, including Diaoyu Islands, to Japan. Prior to the end of the World War II, the Japanese government never stopped its territorial expansion through military aggression. The painful memories of the Japanese Militarism are still fresh for many countries including those in Asia. It is not difficult for anyone with a conscience to judge whether Japan in that part of history could be counted as a country “acting in accordance with international law”.

Secondly, in accordance with international law, the Diaoyu Islands should be returned to China after the Second World War, and some backroom deals between the United States and Japan concerning Diaoyu Islands are illegal and invalid. In December 1941, after suffering years of Japanese aggression, the Chinese government officially declared war against Japan together with the abrogation of all treaties between China and Japan. In December 1943, the Cairo Declaration stated in explicit terms that "all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa [Taiwan] and the Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China. Japan will also be expelled from all other territories which she has taken by violence and greed." In July 1945, the Potsdam Proclamation stated in Article 8: "The terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out and Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine." On September 2, 1945, the Japanese government accepted the Potsdam Proclamation in explicit terms with the Japanese Instrument of Surrender and pledged to faithfully fulfill the obligations enshrined in the provisions of the Potsdam Proclamation. On January 29, 1946, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers Instruction (SCAPIN) No.677 clearly defined Japan's power of administration to "include the four main islands of Japan (Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku) and the approximately 1,000 smaller adjacent islands, including the Tsushima Islands and the Ryukyu Islands north of the 30th parallel of North Latitude". Diaoyu Islands, which are Chinese territories, were not included.

Following the start of Cold War, on September 8, 1951, Japan, the United States and a number of other countries signed the Treaty of Peace with Japan (commonly known as the Treaty of San Francisco) with China being excluded from it. The treaty placed the Nansei Islands south of the 29th parallel of North Latitude under United Nations' trusteeship, with the United States as the sole administering authority. The United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands (USCAR) issued Civil Administration Ordinance No. 68 (Provisions of the Government of the Ryukyu Islands) on February 29, 1952 and Civil Administration Proclamation No. 27 (defining the "geographical boundary lines of the Ryukyu Islands") on December 25, 1953, arbitrarily expanding its jurisdiction to include China's Diaoyu Islands. On June 17, 1971, Japan and the United States signed the Agreement Concerning the Ryukyu Islands and the Daito Islands (Okinawa Reversion Agreement), which "returned" administration rights over the Ryukyu Islands and Diaoyu Islands to Japan. Yet, it can only be wishful thinking if Japan wish to seek “legality” for annexing Chinese territory from these documents. As a matter of fact, such behaviors of the United States and Japan received immediate and strong opposition from the Chinese government and Chinese people home and abroad.

I have to point out that, in response to the strong opposition from the Chinese government and people, the United States had publicly clarified its position on the sovereignty over Diaoyu Islands. In October 1971, the US administration stated that "the United States believes that a return of administrative rights over those islands to Japan, from which the rights were received, can in no way prejudice any underlying claims. The United States cannot add to the legal rights Japan possessed before it transferred administration of the islands to us, nor can the United States, by giving back what it received, diminish the rights of other claimants... The United States has made no claim to Diaoyu Islands and considers that any conflicting claims to the islands are a matter for resolution by the parties concerned." In November 1971, when presenting the Okinawa Reversion Agreement to the US Senate for ratification, the US Department of State stressed that the United States took a neutral position with regard to the competing Japanese and Chinese claims to the islands, despite the return of administrative rights over the islands to Japan.

Thirdly, it is no other but the Japanese government who intends to deny the post-WWII international legal order by asserting instead of negotiating over territorial disputes. Diaoyu Islands have been an inherent territory of China since ancient times, and China has indisputable sovereignty over Diaoyu DIslands. As China and Japan were normalizing relations and concluding the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship in the 1970s, the then leaders of the two countries, acting in the larger interest of China-Japan relations, reached important understanding and consensus on "leaving the issue of Diaoyu Islands to be resolved later." But in recent years, the Japanese government has repeatedly denied the understanding we once reached, and taken unilateral measures concerning the islands, including arresting Chinese fishermen who have long been operating in adjacent sea and hitting Chinese fishing boats. This year in particular, the Japanese government escalated the situation by conducting the so-called "nationalization" of Diaoyu Islands which severely infringed upon China's sovereignty and damaged China-Japan relations. It is also a purposeful rejection and challenge to the international legal order formed after the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War, and is therefore rightfully opposed by all Chinese people home and abroad.

In China, most people protested against the Japanese government over this matter through peaceful, rational and legal means. There were indeed some individuals who over-reacted, but they were all later brought to justice in accordance with Chinese law. It would be futile if the Japanese government wants to use this to smear the Chinese government. If I may, I would like to remind the Japanese government of what happened in Japan: arson in Chinese languages schools, mailing bullets and unidentified parcel to threaten Chinese diplomatic missions, smashing of Chinese restaurants, assaulting and provoking Chinese tourists. The Japanese government had better think about whether they responded to these acts properly.

In Chinese philosophy, we always believe that justice lies in people’s heart. As to whether Japan has shown sincere remorse over its history of military aggression, whether it has dually reflected on the suffering it caused to Asian countries and calamity it brought to world peace, and whether it true-heartedly accepts and abides by the international laws and order, people do not judge merely according to what Japan says or dresses up for itself. The Japanese government is now escalating territorial disputes with its neighbors. All peace-loving countries and peoples in Asia and the world should keep their eyes open and discern whether there is any plan hidden in the deep. According to history records, China never coveted lands of the United States, Australia or Japan, but Japan did. Past experience, if not forgotten, is a guide for the future. Lest we forget.

This article is a response to Mr Masahiro Kohara and his government.

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