In my previous article dated April 10, I proposed that the Japanese government should assign officials to work regularly on the Senkaku Islands. Since the Islands belong to Japan’s own territories, they can put it into practice anytime, even tomorrow, and since it is a domestic matter in Japan, the government does not have to consult with any other countries.
There is no doubt about the Japanese government’s statement: “The Senkaku Islands are clearly an inherent part of the territory of Japan, in light of historical facts and based upon international law.” (For details, please refer to: https://www.mofa.go.jp/region/asia-paci/senkaku/). However, the Japanese government has been closing the Islands and even Japanese citizens are not allowed to enter into the Islands. This makes it difficult for the international community to understand that the Senkaku Islands are Japan’s own territories when Japan’s own citizens are not allowed to enter. The assertions of Japan and China over the issues of sovereignty, ‘de facto’ control, and administrative rights concerning the Senkaku Islands do not mesh because the Japanese government has not taken any visible actions for what the country is obliged to carry out. Why does the Japanese government hesitate to take visible actions? Is it because of a unique tradition in Japan’s diplomacy, that is, the belief that Japan should not make a fuss, nor make an act that might amplify any uproar? It seems to me that the Japanese government is always worried about the possibility of escalating the situation when conducting diplomatic negotiations with other countries. The government seems to fear that if Japan takes an action against a foreign country, the country would counterattack against Japan, and Japan would return a further attack, then, both countries’ arguments might escalate to armed conflict.
The Chinese coast guard vessels’ recent entries into the contiguous zone and intrusions into territorial waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands are too much to tolerate for us Japanese people. In the past, occasional intrusion of the vessel into the territorial waters caused an uproar in Japan, but now, for the past two years, the Chinese coast guard vessels have continued to enter into the contiguous zone almost every day, and frequently intruded into territorial waters impassively, and the vessels have recently grown in size. Their acts are derived from the Chinese strategy—China invades the land of a foreign country and occupies it; it accomplishes a ‘de facto’ control over the land; and it eventually militarizes the whole country. This is called ‘Salami Slicing Tactics’, and there is no doubt about it. While the coronavirus infections have been spreading around the world, the Chinese coast guard vessels entered into the contiguous zone for 333 consecutive days during the period from January to December 2020, in addition to their frequent intrusions into territorial waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands. Japan’s defense system was insufficient, and it seems to remain insufficient even now, judging from the field survey reports of the Japan Coast Guard, the Maritime Self-Defense Force, and the National Police Office. The US President Joe Biden promised the Japanese government to defend Japan in accordance with Article 5 of the US-Japan Security Treaty, but the US government has not specified as to whether the US will defend Japan’s ‘sovereignty’ or ‘administrative rights’ over the Senkaku Islands. Thus, the resolution of this issue depends on the Japanese government’s own determination.
The Chinese Communist Party led by President Xi Jinping, who also serves as the General Secretary of the Communist Party and the Chairman of the Central Military Commission, has carried out expansionism of territories in the South China Sea, and it clearly shows the nature of China as a state. China’s Coast Guard Law was adopted at the Congress on January 22, and came into effect on February 1. In addition, the China Coast Guard was placed under the command of the Central Military Commission, and was given the right to use military weapons if needed against foreign ships. Although China’s coast guard vessels are being called the government’s public vessels, they are military ships with weapons legally and substantially. In relation to the East China Sea, Japan is currently facing the Chinese coast guard vessels’ entries into the contiguous zone and intrusions into territorial waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands, as well as China’s development of gas fields, the First Island Chain, China’s potential invasion of Taiwan, China’s coast guard vessels’ chasing Japanese fishing boats, etc. These issues are our matter, not other countries’ nor other people’s. As regards to the Senkaku Islands, it has even come to be recognized that China is the one that is aiming at ‘de facto’ control over the Islands.
Japan has only to express its own will because it is quite natural for Japan to execute its own administration in its own territory, and this is clearly a domestic matter. China has been invading other countries’ territories, despite all kinds of accusation and criticism of violating international law, and China always explains the expansion of territories as its domestic matter. However, China’s acts are unacceptable under the current international law which is based on the rule of law.
As mentioned above, there is no need for the Japanese government to hesitate to execute its domestic matter in its own country. The government can immediately assign officials to work regularly on the Senkaku Islands without worrying about laws or treaties. All the government has to do is to appoint proper officials in the ministries and agencies concerned to execute the assignment, including the Japan Coast Guard, the Maritime Self-Defense Force, and the National Police Office. The Japanese government should maintain its viewpoint: “There exists no issue of territorial sovereignty to be resolved concerning the Senkaku Islands.” (For details, please refer to: https://www.mofa.go.jp/region/asia-paci/senkaku/)