It always seemed likely that, back in the Deng Xiaoping days, the PRC and Japan were eager to cut a deal for normalization of relations and, therefore, both sides would agree to put the Senkaku issue on the backburner.
The “set aside the Senkakus” sentiment was certainly the governing spirit at a press conference during Deng’s 1978 visit to Japan, as Ezra Vogel’s biography of Deng records (pg. 304 of the ebook):
When a reporter asked about the ownership of the Senkaku Islands, the audience became tense, but Deng replied that the Chinese and Japanese held different views, had different names for the islands, and should put the issue aside so that later generations, who would be wiser than those present, could solve the problem. The audience was visibly impressed…
In the amicable context of 1978, “putting the issue aside” would appear to mean “let’s discuss it later” which puts the issue well down the slippery slope of “an issue that can be discussed/an issue for discussion/an issue that is open to negotiation”.
Apparently, there wasn’t any public confirmation that this spirit informed the actual Sino-Japanese discussions behind closed doors.
In an interesting development, a China-friendly LDP elder decided to go public with his recollections of the Japanese attitude toward the Senkakus during the period of normalization under Tanaka and Deng, in an apparent effort to restore the islands’ status as a topic of engagement rather than an excuse for self-righteous belligerence.
This creates some awkwardness for the Abe government, which has hung its hat on the position that the Senkakus have always and indubitably (at least since 1895 and disregarding the 1945-1952 hiatus of US occupation) belonged to Japan, the sovereignty of the sacred rocks has never been debased by inclusion in the greasy diplomatic dealings between Japan and China, we can do anything we want with them, if you want to talk about the Senkakus, talk to the hand, buster.
Reawakening memories of the time when discussions relating to the Senkakus were a matter of mutual amity probably also reflects the fact that the Chinese government is getting anxious about the downward spiral of PRC-Japan relations—and Prime Minister Abe’s success in building anti-China relationships with India, Vietnam, et. al.—and is interested in appearing less confrontational.
The Chinese charm offensive also includes a full-court press of high level cordiality at the Shangri-La defense confab and a rather frantic cozying up to the United States (including a request for the early Xi-Obama Sunnyland summit and, to sweeten the pot, more than the usual expressions of impatience with North Korea).
This gives President Obama at degree of leverage over the PRC that he has not enjoyed in the past.The USA will take advantage of this favorable situation by forcibly torqueing Xi’s testicles on the matter of “cyberwarfare” and cyberespionage.
It will be interesting to see if President Obama also exploits China’s accommodating posture to “rebalance” the Pacific situation by tilting a little more toward China and away from Japan, or contents himself with a zero-sum win on cyber stuff.
Contradicting government, Tanaka confidant says two sides cut deal at time of normalization of ties
Jun 5, 2013 BEIJING – In a new ripple to Japan’s assertion of ownership of the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, former chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said leaders from Japan and China had agreed to shelve the territory row when the two countries normalized relations in the early 1970s.
The remark by the former Liberal Democratic heavyweight, a disciple of the late Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, who cut the normalization deal with Beijing in 1972, contradicts the government’s official stance that there was no such agreement at the time.
Nonaka, who is leading a delegation of current and former Diet members on a visit to China, told reporters Monday, “Just after the normalization of relations, I was told clearly by then-Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka that a decision was made on the normalization by shelving the Senkaku issue.
“As a living witness, I would like to make clear (what I heard),” Nonaka said after meeting in Beijing with Liu Yunshan, the fifth-ranked leader of the Chinese Communist Party.
Liu is said to have told the delegation that Japan is responsible for the current confrontation with China. Apparently aiming to have Japan acknowledge at least the existence of a bilateral territorial dispute, Liu also reportedly said he hopes to see a solution reached through dialogue between the two governments.
In Tokyo, top officials reiterated the government’s view that the Senkakus are not an issue Japan should put on the shelf since no territorial dispute exists.
“There is no truth (to the remark) that (Japan) agreed with China to shelve or maintain the status quo of the Senkaku Islands,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, reiterating Tokyo’s position that no territorial dispute exists.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida also repeated the same line: “It is not the case that to this day, we have agreed to shelve (the dispute), nor has there been a territorial dispute that should be shelved in the first place.”
Bubble Bubble Toil & Trouble
Looks like Prime Minister Abe is preparing additional bubbliciousness for the Nikkei and, perhaps, lucky stock exchanges in emerging markets:
Japan’s government is set to urge the nation’s public pension funds – a pool of over $2 trillion – to increase their investment in equities and overseas assets as part of a growth strategy being readied by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, according to people with knowledge of the policy shift.
It seems that the Japanese government is going to make sure the Japanese stock market stays propped up by artificial means, at least until the Japanese economy restructures into that senior-citizen-fueled growth engine we’ve been told about, or the smart money cashes out, whichever comes first.
Hmmm. Should I be buying the Nikkei? shorting it?…or both?
Somebody Else Is Badly Confused About the China/Okinawa Issue
But it’s not AFP.
Can anybody tease out the contradiction of this headline from on line news site Japan Today:
And the lede from the accompanying article, sourced from AFP?
A top Chinese general on Sunday sought to distance the country from claims by some of its scholars that the Ryukyu Islands, which include Okinawa, do not belong to Japan.
I hate to admit it, but this qualifies as supporting evidence for the “blogsites have lower standards than traditional news outlets” slam.
Japan Today is also guilty of not policing its Wikipedia entry which is a total rip job by somebody who obviously totally completely hates Japan Today.
Japan Today staff has been known to employ underhanded tactics to prevent criticisms of media incompetence. Often times they will intentionally ignore new or existing information and state that the only truth is their stance. They claim they are experts in all fields, including law, engineering, psychology, and politics.
…which, comes to think of it, also supports the “Wikipedia content can’t be trusted” slam.
Recently, the founder of Japan Today (no longer involved in operations) showed up on the Talk page to criticize the entry but, as of this writing, it’s still up there in all its glory.
On the other hand, for a good piece of bloginess on the Ryukyu/Okinawa issue, here’s a link to something I wrote on the LDP’s Okinawa problem–and China’s pleasure in stirring the pot.