China, Japan Confirm Commitment To Settling Island Dispute – Analysis


By Konstantin Garibov

Beijing has followed in Tokyo`s footsteps by confirming its commitment to resuming talks over the disputed Senkaku islands – known as the Diaoyu in China. The sides have agreed not to stir up tensions even further.

Actually, the dispute seems to have been suspended but not forgotten. Anti-Japanese protests in China are almost over, and the two countries` leaders no longer exchange bitter words. Tokyo, however, has not renounced the purchase of the three islands it had bought from their private Japanese owners last week. Despite this Beijing claims its sovereignty over the islands and does not plan to discuss the issue at the upcoming talks.

Senkaku Islands / Diaoyu Islands
Senkaku Islands / Diaoyu Islands

Is there a chance to find a compromise? Expert at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies Yakov Berger is cautious about the issue.

“I think that a compromise is possible if Japan makes some concessions. The climax of the dispute is over. The Chinese authorities have urged the nation not to go into extremes. If both sides sit down for talks and are really not interested in armed confrontation then there are chances to settle the dispute.”

Chief editor for the ‘Russia in global politics’ magazine, Fedor Lukyanov thinks that bad peaceis better thana good war…

“There will be no war- for several reasons: a war would mean huge economic losses for both China and Japan considering their highly active bilateral trade. Besides, if China decides to unleash a war this will be a real present to the US: if somebody is afraid of the strong China the best scenario would be to provoke it to join a war. I think that even if this happens, China will face a defeat and will achieve no results by using force. This will throw the country back in its development and will result in more countries having fears about China. Beijing is aware of this and will never take this step.”

The aftermath of the confrontation is obvious: both sides have suffered losses. Some Japanese carmakers and electronics giants had to suspend their work in China amid violent protests. The same holds true to Japanese shops and restaurants. China is now facing losses caused by the declining tourism to Japan. The Beijing-based publishing houses were banned from issuing books about Japan.Yakov Berger continues.

“The losses are really serious for both sides. Japan is particularly vulnerable because the Japanese economy has not yet recovered after the global crisis and especially after the tsunami which destroyed Japan’s nuclear energy sector. China is the main trade partner for Japan, even more important than the US. The Chinese market is the largest in the world and Japanese businesses do not want to lose it. For China, Japan is equally important. Breaking trade and investment relations would be a serious blow on China’s export opportunities which would result in closing many factories and leaving several Chinese regions jobless.”

The dispute between China and Japan about the islands in the East China Sea was aggravated several years ago after rich oil fields were discovered in the seabed around the islands. These oil fields played off China against Japan but the same oil fields could bring them to terms today, expert Viktor Pavliatenko from the Centre for Japanese Research of the Institute of the Far East at the Russian Academy of Sciences believes.

“Talks are likely to begin on joint exploration of the sea shelf around the islands, the more so because certain steps were made in this direction in 2008. The sides came to the conclusion that they would develop the disputable area together and even assigned the roles, who is going to do what on the shelf. However, this did not yield any results. Both sides neglected the agreement later. In the current situation, resuming the talks would be the best remedy.”

The peak of the confrontation between Japan and China was reached during US Defense Minister Leon Panetta’s visit to those countries. Beijing believes that the US declaration of expanding its security treaty with Japan to the disputable islands has poured oil on the flames of the territorial dispute. For this reason, China insisted on getting a promise from Leon Panetta that Washington would take no sides in the bilateral argument. However, this promise does not cancel the US statement that an attack against the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands would be considered by the US as a threat to its national security. At the same time, it is obvious that non-interference in the conflict would weaken the chances for a new rise of tension and would allow Japan and China themselves to determine their policies in the disputable area without external pressure.


VOR, or the Voice of Russia, was the Russian government's international radio broadcasting service from 1993 until 2014, when it was reorganised as Radio Sputnik.

One thought on “China, Japan Confirm Commitment To Settling Island Dispute – Analysis

  • September 23, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Regarding this dispute, the US, and Henry Kissinger in particular has a lot to answer for, and he should be questioned about it soon before he kicks the bucket, since the U.S. transferred administrative control of the Daiyou/Senkaku Islands to Japan in 1972 right about the time Nixon was reaching out to Mao and the PRC, and several years after offshore oil reserves had been discovered. This would have been within Kissinger’s purview even though he was not yet Secretary of State, since he had effectively taken over U.S. foreign policy by that time. And, it is not as if this issue was obscure. Indeed, while the PRC appears not to have addressed it at the time- recognizing Taiwan as a province of the PRC was its big concern- there were massive protests over its transfer in Taiwan, which is only 75 miles away from the islands and had recognized and articulated its rights over the islands.

    Initially, the U.S. seemed to agree with Japan’s claims of sovereignty, and then later backtracked. However, the U.S.- Japan Defense Treaty then and now ensures that if China seeks to enforce its rights militarily, the U.S. must come to Japan’s defense. So, either this transfer was done intentionally, e.g., to assuage Japan or to continue to contain China, or it was a misreading of the sovereignty issue and colossal mistake. Given Kissinger’s diplomatic history of cutting deals, while subtly screwing the other party and covering his tracks in the process, as well as his lack of knowledge and/or interest at that time about Chinese and Japanese history, it may have been a combination of both.


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