More than six decades from the San Francisco Treaty that supposedly resolved the Asia-Pacific War and created a system of peace. East Asia in 2013 remains troubled by the question of sovereignty over a group of tiny, uninhabited islands. The governments of Japan, China, and Taiwan all covet and claim sovereignty over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.
Despite the absurdity, these tiny islands assume today some of the weight that attached almost a century ago to the vast domain of Northeast China (“Manchuria”), with comparable potential to plunge the region into conflict.
This presentation looks at the evolution of the “Senkaku/Diaoyu problem” in the frame of Japan-China and US-Japan relations, considering the conflicting readings of the historical record, the relevant principles of international law, academic, media and civic constructions of the dispute, the US stake, the Okinawan stake, and the various formula that have been proposed to resolve it.
If the countries of the region are to transcend the 19th and 20th century eras of Japanese imperialism and US Cold War hegemony and construct a 21st century of peace, cooperation, and prosperity, the Senkaku/Diaoyu issue will first have to be resolved.
Gavan McCormack is emeritus professor at Australian National University, a coordinator of the Asia Pacific Journal - Japan Focus (http://japanfocus.org), and author of a number of works on modern East Asia, especially Japanese history and politics, including, most recently, Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States (Rowman and Littlefield, 2012, Japanese edition March 2013, and Chinese and Korean editions in preparation). He delivered the keynote address on the international Symposium on the Senkaku/Diaoyu Island Dispute at University of Illinois (Champagn-Urbana) in April 2013.