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Beyond the senkakus japan’s border disputes in a larger context 2.22.2013

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In 2010 and again in 2012, the Senkakus (Diaoyu in Chinese) surfaced as a major source of conflict between Japan and China. But this dispute can only be understood in the broader context of the three territorial questions : the Northern Territories/Southern Kuriles, the Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo/Takeshima) and the Senkakus/Diaoyu. They are closely linked to Japan's "history issues" with the Asian mainland as well as "unfinished business" from the Second World War. Today, they also cannot be separated from the geopolitics of the confrontation between China and the United States and its allies, including Japan.

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Beyond the senkakus japan’s border disputes in a larger context 2.22.2013

  1. 1. Maison franco-japonaise Tokyo 22 February 2013 Beyond the Senkakus:Japan’s border disputes in context Robert Dujarric Director, Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies Temple University Japan robertdujarric@gmail.com Robert Dujarric 1
  2. 2. Japan’s 3 territorial disputes• Southern Kurils/Northern Territories – Russia• Dokdo/Takeshima (Liancourt Rocks) – South Korea• Senkakus/Diaoyu – China (+Taiwan) Robert Dujarric 2
  3. 3. Historical background• Western notions of sovereignty new in Asia.• Historical records less reliable than in Europe.• Relatively recent disputes. Robert Dujarric 3
  4. 4. Similarities• All involve small islands/rocks.• Uninhabited/thinly populated.• No competing national/ethnic groups.• Marginal in historical terms.• Limited economic value.• Limited strategic/military asset. Robert Dujarric 4
  5. 5. Northern Territories/Southern Kurils – Clear historical record. – Both sides agree there’s a problem. – No explosive potential. – Spoils of war issue. Robert Dujarric 5
  6. 6. Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo/Takeshima)• Ambiguous historical record.• Asymmetrical significance: – Highly emotional in Korea/ less in Japan. – Part of history issue in Korea (colonization, sex slaves). – Instrumentalized in Korean politics (less in Japan).• Not explosive but highly corrosive.• Hurts both countries. Robert Dujarric 6
  7. 7. Senkakus/Diaoyu• Disputed historical record.• Involves Japan, China, US, Taiwan, Hong Kong.• Embodies 2 linked major tense bilateral relationships: – China-USA – China-Japan – Connected to South China Sea claims.• High risk due to Sino-American confrontation. Robert Dujarric 7
  8. 8. Outlook– Northern Territories• Can Russia and Japan compromise?• Value of potential gain to Japan?• Is Russia foe or ally vs. China? Robert Dujarric 8
  9. 9. Outlook: Liancourt Rocks• Zero possibility of compromise by Korea.• Undermines cooperation with South Korea.• Options for Japan: – Tone down dispute. – Unilaterally end claim (German option).• Question: Relative value of Takeshima claim vs. South Korea’s role as strategic partner.• Resolving it won’t make history vanish. Robert Dujarric 9
  10. 10. Outlook: Senkakus• Will acknowledging the dispute placate China?• Hard to understand/predict Beijing moves.• Part of a broader China vs. US and allies (Japan and others) confrontation.• Even without the Senkakus, tensions might be as bad as they are today. Robert Dujarric 10
  11. 11. Broader context: It’s about China• Only the China relationship is critically dangerous.• Senkakus/Diaoyu a symptom not the cause.• Key questions: – Is Beijing on the warpath? If yes a hard line is vital. – Is China in transition? If so appeasement may work. – What will China be like in 1, 5, 10 years? – Does Beijing see a US red line in the Senkakus? – How does Beijing evaluate PRC-US balance of power? – Who makes key decisions in Beijing? Robert Dujarric 11
  12. 12. What can Japan do?• Mitigate/solve secondary issues (Northern Territories, Liancourt Rocks).• Avoid historical revisionism which hurts ties with Korea, US worsens relations with China.• Be unilaterally proactive on history issue.• Ensure China, not Japan, is seen as a threat in Seoul and Moscow.• Make sure Senkakus seen as US red line.• Think with US about “accident management.” Robert Dujarric 12
  13. 13. Obstacles to Japanese strategy• Vocal revisionist minority hinders progress on: – Takeshima, Northern Territories. – History issues (sex slaves, textbooks, Nanjing, etc) – And gives horrible impression of Japan in US, China, Korea, etc.• Abe moderate pragmatist but revisionist at heart.• Return on concessions slow/not immediate.• Japan benchmarked on Germany on history – high hurdle to clear.• Weak national security policy apparatus. Robert Dujarric 13
  14. 14. Japan’s advantages• Balance of forces favorable to Japan/US.• China has no allies.• It is in a defensive position.• It is a status quo power. Robert Dujarric 14

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