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Right and wrong about dispute over Diaoyu Island: Tokyo should tell truth

2013-01-14

Duan Jielong, Chinese Consul General in Sydney

2013/1/10

Recently, the Japanese Consul-General in Sydney Masahiro Kohara once again lodged unfounded charges against China over the Diaoyu Islands dispute on The Australian. The following are my responses:

It is known to all that the escalation of Diaoyu Islands dispute was triggered by the Japanese Government’s public denial of the understanding and consensus once reached by state leaders of China and Japan to put aside the disputes, and the following farce of “nationalization” of the islands. It was undoubtedly opposed by people of both mainland and Taiwan of China. Therefore, it is no others but the Japanese Government that provoked and started the tension in East Asia. It is only just and legal that the Chinese Government took necessary measures to defend China’s sovereignty over its territory as a forced response to the provocation from the Japanese Government.

I want to stress once again that it was widely accepted by the international community that Diaoyu Island was an inherent part of Chinese territory. From voluminous historic record, I would like to give just another example to prove that Consul General Kohara and his government lied to claim that Diaoyu Island was “terra nullius”. On 21 October 1885, the then Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Inoue Kaoru wrote in a letter to the Japanese Internal Affairs Ministry that “this island was adjacent to the territory of Qing Empire of China… China has already named this island. Chinese newspapers had previously reported that Japan intended to occupy these Chinese islands surrounding Taiwan, doubts against Japan are mounting. We have received several warnings from China. If we proceed to erect a landmark, it will easily cause suspicion from China. My advice is that we can suspend erection of landmark and the island’s development and other policy and wait for the future.” It was a clear record of the then Japanese Government’s plot to occupy Chinese territory Diaoyu Island. There were more similar written records in Japanese official documents, which Consul General Kohara did not mention at all. After all, “terra nullius” was just a handy legal excuse used by the Japanese government to cover the aggressive nature of its plunder of Chinese territory.

Furthermore, readers may well learn once again how the Japanese Government distorts the international law from what Consul General Kohara wrote. It was almost common sense that the Japanese Instrument of Surrender signed by the Allied Powers and Japan on 2 September 1945 clearly stated that “we [Japan] hereby undertake for the Emperor, the Japanese Government, and their successors to carry out the provisions of the Potsdam Proclamation in good faith.” Besides, the Japanese Government also clearly promised in Sino-Japan Joint Communiqué in 1972 that “it firmly maintains its stand under Article 8 of the Potsdam Proclamation”, which stipulated that all the territories Japan has taken from China shall be restored to China. The China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship also confirmed that “the principles enunciated in the Joint Communiqué should be strictly observed.” However, Consul General Kohara devaluated in his article the Potsdam Proclamation as merely “documents that stipulated the basic post-war settlement policy of the Allied powers”, and alleged that “neither the Cairo Declaration nor the Potsdam Proclamation has the ultimate legal validity on the treatment of Japan's territory.” It is the latest exemplification of Japanese government’s explicit challenging to the post-war international system and disavowal of its legal duty based on international law.

Consul General Kohara also said that China should take the dispute to the International Court of Justice. It was no more than a method to mislead the public. According to the principles of international law governing the peaceful settlement of international disputes, countries in dispute have the obligation to resolve the disputes through negotiation in the first place. The Japanese Government, on one hand, assertively denied there is any dispute over the Diaoyu Island, on the other hand, asked China to take the dispute to the ICJ. It only showcases the lack of sincerity of the Japanese side for a peaceful settlement of the dispute. As the key to the issue, the Japanese side should face up to history and reality, and display enough good faith to find ways to properly manage the Diaoyu Island issue with China through negotiation and consultation.

Last but not least, largely owing to the Peaceful Constitution, the post-war Japan followed a peaceful path and avoided the disastrous road of militarism. However, there has always been a force in Japan making every possible attempt and taking all means to alter this constitution and challenge the post World War II international order. Peoples of all peace-loving countries and regions should stay highly alert against this trend.

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