Beijing (China Daily/ANN) - Japan has turned the dispute with China over the sovereignty of Diaoyu Islands into a farce. The machinations of Japanese politicians and right-wing activists' attempt to "purchase" China's Diaoyu Islands undermine the tacit understanding between China and Japan to shelve disputes and deal with more pressing issues.
In the latest development, the Japanese government said on September 10 it would "nationalise" the islands by "buying" it from their "owner" for 2.05 billion yen (US$26 million) on September 11. Japan has not only intensified the dispute, but also continues to fan the flames of passion. Irrespective all the crafty plots, however, Japan cannot change the fact that the Diaoyu Islands belong to China.
China has made diplomatic representations and responded resolutely to reiterate the facts and drive sense into Japanese politicians. Chinese activists, too, have demonstrated their indignation and reiterated China's sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands, reflecting Chinese people's will to defend the country's sovereignty.
Many of the contradictions between China and Japan are the creation of the United States.
After World War II, according to the Cairo Declaration (1943) and the Potsdam Proclamation (1945), the Chinese government resumed its sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands, which were illegally occupied by Japan after the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95).In 1951, Japan and the US signed an illegal treaty in San Francisco without inviting China, which should have been a party because the Diaoyu Islands are Chinese territory. The islands were then "entrusted" to the US according to the treaty.
The Chinese government has never recognized the San Francisco treaty. Using its Cold War policy against China, the US handed over the administration of Okinawa, which was under its trusteeship, and the Diaoyu Islands to Japan in 1971 despite the vehement protests of the Chinese government and compatriots on both sides of the Taiwan Straits. This is how the Diaoyu Islands problem became a territorial dispute between China and Japan, and the Americans are well aware of that.
Japan asked the US to extend the US-Japan security treaty to cover China's Diaoyu Islands so that Washington could help Tokyo if the territories under its administration came under armed attack. Japan wants to drag the US into the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands to enjoy the protective umbrella of the Americans.
After sowing the seeds of friction between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands, the US wanted to observe the situation from a distant and reap the benefits emerging from an intensified dispute. But after China's rise, Japan began asking the US for more support and greater commitment. Washington used the occasion to get behind Japan and hinted that the US-Japan security treaty covered the Diaoyu Islands. As a result, Japanese politicians are now playing with fire.
The US wants to fulfil its global strategic objectives, including containing China's rise and undermining its maritime interests. The Diaoyu Islands are the first islands marked out by the West to contain China. Washington will not allow Beijing to regain control of the Diaoyu Islands without a struggle. It is determined not to allow Beijing to challenge its dominance in the Asia-Pacific region, even though Beijing has no plans to do so.
But the US will not sit by and watch while Japan tries the patience of China, which could draw Washington into a conflict between Beijing and Tokyo. This is also not in line with the US' interests. It seems that after sowing the seeds of discord between China and Japan, the US wants to act as a mediator, a contradictory but unique role.
Washington and Tokyo are not engaged in a monolithic calculation. Besides, China's increasingly rapid development has made it an indispensable partner for dialogue and cooperation for the US. And given China's influence on the international community, the US has to consider overall Sino-US relations before taking any hasty decision. So in the final analysis, the Diaoyu Islands dispute is the result of a power game.
China is rising, albeit peacefully, and will not only protest against any unfair act, but also is determined to safeguard the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands. The timing and conditions for resolving the Diaoyu Islands dispute once and for all may not be mature enough, but China is determined to safeguard its sovereignty and Chinese activists' successful landing on the Diaoyu Islands mirrors that determination.
There is no conflict between diplomatic struggle and the bottom-up efforts of the Chinese activists. But diplomacy has its own rules and arrangements, and it is difficult for activists to coordinate their moves with diplomatic measures, especially because Chinese activists desperate to safeguard China's Diaoyu Islands include compatriots from the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan and those living in foreign countries. Since civil efforts have their limitations, diplomacy should play the main role in resolving the dispute.
The Chinese leadership has reiterated that Diaoyu Islands are an inalienable part of China's territory and China will "absolutely make no concession" on issues concerning its sovereignty and territorial integrity. On Sept 10, the Chinese government announced the baseline of territorial sea off the Diaoyu Islands.
China should send its ships on sovereign cruise and make the practice routine. That may push Japan back from its current stance that there is no sovereignty dispute over the Diaoyu Islands. The fact that the islands belong to China, combined with China's growing influence on the world, will compel the international community to force Tokyo to the negotiating table to resolve the issue with Beijing. This process is moving toward progressive realisation.
The author is deputy director of the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.