ISSN 2330-717X

Findings, Suggestions And Recommendations For Claimant States Over East China Sea Dispute – Analysis

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Sovereignty over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands is at the heart of the conflict.It is clear that the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute is not just a territorial dispute. This matter involves in several other significant factors like economic, political, national and international security. Somewhat, settlement of this dispute definitely will influence the Asia-Pacific region directly and indirectly. Both parties believe about each other that they can somehow weaken the other’s interest in this conflict, and create hedging in foreign policy affairs. Ever since China and Japan have the territorial dispute in the ECS both policies made utmost efforts avoid any potential pessimistic visage effect in the managing of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute. International states of both China and Japan are directly relevant to the dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands.

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Also it seems highly unlikely that both China and Japan could take armed action to claim sovereignty over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. On the other hand rising domestic pressures is also faced by both governments to establish military control over the territory. This dispute is belonging to all aspects regarding the legitimacy of Chinese and Japanese domestic and central governments and also related to their foreign relations in international community. Currently, China is observed as a fast rising economic threat for the Japan in the region, perhaps Japan and US alliance in this issue is to cease dominance of China.  The lack of appropriate foreign policies on this issue is also a factor to unsolve this matter properly. 

Many scholars and strategists have attempted to find methods to resolve the conflict between China and Japan. They suggest a variety of methods and strategies, ranging from the development of non-state actors such as NGOs, to cross-cultural exchanges, to increasing regionalization. But this problem may not be able to be resolved in the near term. If China ended its claims to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands and its outcries about history, Japan likely would be happy to end the dispute. The Chinese government seems to be less willing to compromise. Their growing economic and military strength increases their appetite for expansion. Neither would they like to oppose the nationalist forces in their own country. By the same token, researcher have not found that political hostility spills over into the economic field. By examining the responses of China and Japan to each other’s misbehavior in the ECS, clearly see how mutual economic reliance pressures both countries not to adopt economic sanctions and stretch the issue into other fields.

The current situation in the ECS shows that the argument predicting eventual cooling of disputes due to economics is incorrect. Despite growing economic ties and increased trade, the situation between China and Japan is worsening. China is Japan’s largest trading partner both are interdependent on each other.  In both Japan and China, nationalism is on the upsurge. Historical grievances are cherished. Old animosities are raked up. Whether the two governments themselves encourage these feelings, or if mass feelings drive government policies, the result is the same. Economic ties, commercial contacts, and trade agreements are relegated to the background.

 Because of the rise of nationalism in both China and Japan, the situation in the Senkaku/Diayou Islands is very volatile. Each country sees the islands as part of its identity. The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands are a symbol for nationalists in both countries. The public in both countries have become deeply involved in the quarrel. Both China and Japan have a keen sense of history with extremely long backgrounds. With nations like China and Japan, history feeds nationalism. Furthermore, this dispute between Japan and China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands puts pressure on the US, which has trade ties with both nations and a longstanding security alliance with Japan. Since the US routinely patrols the area around the Senkaku/DiaoyuIslands, it is likely that it would be drawn into any military confrontation, should one occur. This leaves unanswered the question of whether the UN role will help or hinder the possibility of an amicable settlement. 

The Japanese and Chinese both have attempted to resolve the issues surrounding the dispute through international law, but there are two differing aspects of the dispute that need to be addressed under international law: the maritime delimitation of the continental shelf and the delimitation of the EEZ. But the dispute is ardently and broadly being discussed in the eyes of the recent scenario, leaders of both countries keenly claim the sovereignty and legal rights of territorial acquisition and maritime boundary in the ECS. Further, there was a gap to define the rule of adjudication and weakness of International law for a final settlement of the disputes. In modern and contemporary international law could be a way to solve this matter on a legitimate and historical basis.

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In the final investigation, the financial desirability of directly developing the natural resources in the ECS and the continental shelf nearby the Senkakus/Diayou must be impartial by the both China and Japan against slight political considerations. Also, China could decide to increase its pragmatic transactions with unrecognized states to include Taiwan, but this course of action seems doubtful. Currently, Xi Jinping is expected to consolidate control both politically and militarily in 2018 in the affairs of the State, China’s latest moves in reference to the Senkaku Islands stand out as a tense attempt to reinforce its claims while it strategizes its offensive posturing vis-à-vis the Senkaku Islands.

Furthermore, this study find that China has used the UNCLOS as justification for extending its maritime periphery in the ECS to further secure access to undersea natural resources and vital shipping lanes. UNCLOS does not define clearly how to solve the disputes and only urges the parties involved in disagreements on the demarcation of EEZ and/or delimitation should negotiate on the fair principle, seek acceptable solutions to all, and avoid anything harmful to an eventual agreement. Currently, as China is a growing economic power in the Asia-Pacific region. China is becoming an assertive power as increasing its military capabilities especially emphasis on territorial dispute in the East China Sea. The specific challenge posed by the Chinese strategy of reactive assertiveness in the ECS is that it tends to blur the line between law enforcement and warfare. Because Japan’s security organizations strictly divide military corps and civilian and actions, the state has struggled to accommodate its institutions to this new reality. This creates weaknesses in Japan’s deterrence posture in the ECS.

Reviewing the interests of China and Japan highlighted that both countries have significant interests in controlling the islands. Gaining control over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands could potentially greatly benefit China in the strategic, economic and political realms. At the same time, while the islands are not as important strategically for Japan as they are for China, loss of the islands would be a painful sign of the decline of Japan’s regional prominence, and Tokyo has strong political and economic interests to maintain control over the islands. 

7.2 Findings

The following findings are taken from the dispute of the ECS:

  1. The China and Japan have to engage each other in the multilateral economic initiatives for deepening the relations between both countries. While engaging each other, both counties can share the burden of responsibility in the disputed ECS.  
  2. China and Japan having mutual responsibility on each other both countries will act more precisely in the regional matters, like ECS territorial dispute while also maintaining the regional security. 
  3. The assertiveness of China in the ECS dispute would be dangerous for its future economic growth as there are several resources.
  4. Chinese interest has to be the economic growth that would help China to engage Japan in the ECS dispute.
  5. China considers the ECS as its key interest and Chinese foreign policy is very clear in this matter. 
  6. Chinese civil and military (PLA) establishment and politicians are united regarding the ECS dispute. Chinese president Xi Jinpnig, foreign ministers and military officials used to announce the ECS as core interest of China.
  7. China and Japan are indirectly hedging each other in the ECS dispute to secure their interests. The U.S. involvement in the ECS dispute is annoyed by the Chinese. 
  8. Japan-China tension in the ECS dispute might change into rivalry if both countries adopted straight forward stance against each other in the ECS dispute.

7.3 Suggestions

East China Sea dispute is a flash point between China and Japan. The US involvement in this dispute make it more critical. Following are some suggestions and recommendation to resolve dispute amicably and if the solution is not possible than how conflict can be avoided.

  1. The China and Japan have to engage each other in the multilateral economic initiatives for deepening the relations between both countries. While engaging each other, both counties can share the burden of responsibility in the disputed ECS.  
  2. China and Japan having mutual responsibility on each other both countries will act more precisely in the regional matters, like ECS territorial dispute while also maintaining the regional security. 
  3. The assertiveness of China in the ECS dispute would be dangerous for its future economic growth as there are several resources.
  4. Chinese interest have to be the economic growth that would help China to engage Japan in the ECS dispute.
  5. Both neighbor countries have interests in the ECS dispute because it will not be undermined by other countries due to growing economic
  6. The changes in the UNCLOS by the U.N. would help in solving the overlapping claims by the claimants of ECS dispute.
  7. While the legal dimension of the issue still remains a quagmire, China and Japan could negotiate a lasting settlement of their conflicting claims to the Senkaku Islands and to the continental shelf.
  8. Both countries should agree to address violations first bilaterally, including in defense authority meetings
  9. Both countries should consider incorporating guidelines for behaviour within the mechanism
  10. Think tanks, research institutes and other countries should host forums that bring parties together for discussions on crisis management and mitigation

The controversy over the demarcation of the East China Sea continental shelf has existed for a long time. It is of practical significance to choose this question. Due to the important position of the continental shelf in terms of economy, resource utilization and military national security, the two sides have been controversial here. China insists on the principle of the extension of nature while Japan insists on advocating the scope of the continental shelf at a distance of 200 nautical miles. Japan is untenable in international law regarding Japan’s act of unilaterally delineating the scope of the overlapping area with China’s continental shelf and violating the rights of the Chinese continental shelf. Both sides should resolve the issue on the basis of the principle of fairness through consultation and can also refer to the rules established in the existing cases of international law.

Discussions between Japan and China to develop a crisis management mechanism tool began in 2012. Talks stalled when tensions peaked in 2013 after China declared the establishment of an air defense identification zone, airspace over land in which the identification, location, and control of civil aircraft is performed in the interest of national security. After Japan and China signed a four-point consensus document laying out their differences concerning the disputed islands, bilateral discussions resumed in early 2015, aiming to implement the maritime and aerial communication mechanism.

Concerns

Rising nationalist sentiments and growing political mistrust heighten the potential for conflict and hinder the capacity for peaceful resolution of the dispute. Though Chinese and Japanese leaders have refrained from forcibly establishing control over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, unauthorized action by local commanders could result in the unintended escalation of hostilities. Through treaty commitments with Japan, a military confrontation could involve the United States. To preserve relations with China and continue cooperation on various issues, the United States has an interest in de-escalating tensions. 

Nabel Akram, Master of philosophy in Political Science and Former Research Assistant at University of Management and Technology Lahore. Research Interests Include Asia Pacific, China’s Foreign Policy. Can be reached Via email [email protected]

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