No room for negotiations on Senkakus: Japan

The newly elected Japanese PM Shinzo Abe has reiterated that Tokyo sees no need to negotiate over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, according to this article from JiJi Press.

“The Senkakus are our territory, so there is no room whatever for negotiations,” Abe said on a television program.

“It was the first time since Abe took office last week that he has ruled out negotiations with China over the Japanese-administered islands.”

Contrast this with comments from the Chinese foreign ministry that Japan should meet China halfway to improve relations between the two countries.

Meanwhile, the Japanese are urging the United Nations to rebuff an argument that the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands are, if nothing else, the geological property of China.

Also from JiJi Press:

In the petition submitted to the commission in mid-December, China argued that geographical characteristics show the continental shelf in the East China Sea stretches naturally from the country’s mainland and that China’s continental shelf includes the Senkaku islands and extends to the Okinawa Trough off the southernmost Japan prefecture of Okinawa.

And so it goes… You will recall that during the Cold War, East Germans referred to West Germany as “so-called West Germany.” Things can get this petty. And again, it’s preferable to a hot war.

China’s mixed messages

China’s foreign minister called on Japan’s newly elected PM Shinzo Abe to meet Beijing “halfway” and improve relations which have been damaged by the Senkaku-Diaoyu island dispute.

“We hope the new Japanese administration will meet the Chinese side halfway and make concrete efforts to overcome difficulties in bilateral relations,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters, according to AFP.

This would all be well and good if China itself had not sent a plane over the disputed islands three days before the December election in Japan. It was first such incursion by a Chinese state plane into Japanese airspace in the modern era.  

If China was serious about improved relations, why would China do anything to further aggrevate the already tense relationship? Plainly there are conflicting authorities within China, sending out highly contradictory messages to Japan.

The military is its own political power within China, and operates more or less independently of the Communist Party of China for any matters related to China’s disputed borders.

And so a vision of China emerges of a country that has undergone tremendous growth, while the fiefdoms within -the CPC and the military along with all the other internal poles of power – have maintained their own autonomy from each other. That’s true even with Xi Jinping taking the reins of the military. 

So the CPC and military can’t coordinate a consistent message between each other. In this way China is, in the words of Edward Luttwak, “autistic.” He believes there is “no strategy at all” underpinning China’s rise. Recent events suggest that is the case.

To extend Hugh White’s phrasing about the risk of misunderstandings between nations, one of the greatest ongoing “misunderstandings” may be between China’s communist party leadership and its military leaders.

Japan and the US reunited after no separation

The incoming Japanese PM Shinzo Abe and US President Barack Obama have agreed to a January meeting aimed at strengthening ties between the two countries.

Abe and Obama want to contribute to peace and stability in Asia. (Read: further coordinate their efforts to contend with China’s military adventurism.)

they will arrange to hold a summit in January to confirm the two countries will work to tackle issues in the region, with an eye on China’s maritime ambitions and North Korea’s rocket launch.

Abe wants to bolster ties with the US after the three-year interregnum when the opposition Democratic Party of Japan was in control and taking up the issue of the US military in bases in Japan. The ironic thing about Abe is that, in his ideal world, Japan would have more autonomy from the US because of the undisputed strength of Japan.

Already the Chinese communists are already warning Abe to walk a narrow line over the Senkaku-Diaoyu Island dispute and matters related to Japan’s imperial history in Asia.

Visits to war-related Yasukuni Shrine by Japanese prime ministers, the territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands, and issues related to Japan’s Constitution are fundamentals, the paper said.

None of these issues should be allowed to remain vague, it said, warning against Japan’s perceived nationalism and its possible tilt to the right.

The US, of course, is happy to deal with Abe. According to this article Abe’s victory would be:

a “net positive” for the United States and could in fact stabilise Japan-China ties.
“The view in Beijing is that their pressure tactics are working on Japan and I think it’s important to disabuse them of that,”...said one expert.

However, the question is if Japanese nationalism of Abe’s flavor can be directed. Can the US urge and support stronger Japanese resolve over the Senkaku Islands while extracting restraint from the Japanese over a separate island dispute with South Korea? My feeling is that a nationalist urge would see Japan press its case equally with the Chinese, and South Koreans who also a key US ally. If the Japanese hold the line with the Chinese but dial down the dispute with the Koreans, then I would say you are starting to see a very faint border drawn between the US alliance in East Asia and China, as you know, this blog is all about emerging Cold Wars in the 21st Century.

Waking Ultraman

ultraman

(Ultraman, left, faces the other guy)

Japan is going to have to go for radical in reviving its once heroic economy. If Shinzo Abe is successful, it could alter a lot of long-held assumptions about Japanese assets in financial markets. Some well-known investment banks today are also predicting stocks in Japan will rally by 20 % as the central bank works hand-in-glove with the government to bring the economy back to life in 2013. But as we know, economics and politics are linked. If Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party, along with the New Komeito party, have any success, the Japanese sense of vulnerability towards China may diminish and some measure of confidence can creep back into Japan’s foreign policy. If the experiment in reviving Japan fails, you can almost bet on more trouble over the islands, even if China’s most recent stunts prove only a temporary campaign.