A very dangerous proposition
The New York Times
September 19, 2012
I’ve had a longstanding interest in the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, the subject of a dangerous territorial dispute between Japan and China. The United States claims to be neutral but in effect is siding with Japan, and we could be drawn in if a war ever arose. Let me clear that I deplore the violence in the recent anti-Japan protests in China: the violence is reprehensible and makes China look like an irrational bully. China’s government should reign in this volatile nationalism rather than feed it. This is a dispute that both sides should refer to the International Court of Justice, rather than allow to boil over in the streets. That said, when I look at the underlying question of who has the best claim, I’m sympathetic to China’s position. I don’t think it is 100 percent clear, partly because China seemed to acquiesce to Japanese sovereignty between 1945 and 1970, but on balance I find the evidence for Chinese sovereignty quite compelling. The most interesting evidence is emerging from old Japanese government documents and suggests that Japan in effect stole the islands from China in 1895 as booty of war. This article by Han-Yi Shaw, a scholar from Taiwan, explores those documents. I invite any Japanese scholars to make the contrary legal case. – Nicholas Kristof
The above article appeared in the New York Times and argued convincingly in favour of Chinese ownership of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. The hard evidence was clear, and Nicholas Kristof was chastising the Chinese for protesting in the streets instead of taking the case to the International Court of Justice. On face value it is a very good and logical suggestion. In reality, it would be the most foolish thing for China to do so. The islands belong to China and were taken away as war booty by the Japanese who now insisted that the islands belonged to them. Why would China want to go to court with the robbers when the outcome could turn the other way? Why would China want to risk its territory in a court that China is not even convinced of its objectivity and neutrality? What happens if it turns out to be a kangaroo court? How high is the possibility of the judges being bribed and bought over by the Japanese? The Japanese would be very willing to offer the judges a sum that they could not refuse. Not possible?
The worst case would be for the court to try to appease both parties, like the Pedra Branca case, and apportion the islands equally to both parties. And China would lose, legally, half of its territories to the robbers and never think of getting it back anymore.
The fact today is that the robbers, Japan, are lying through their teeth and refused to acknowledge the truth, and are likely to do anything to keep the loot. The only way for China to take back its property is to do it the same way as the robbers, in a war, unless Japan is willing to return it voluntarily before it happens.
China must never bring the case to the ICJ. It could be a trap. It should do it the same way as the Koreans. It is their island and there is no dispute and no necessity to go to court. Chinese territories are not negotiable. They are setting China up for the kill.
PS. Never trust the Americans.