America Sets Trap for Japan Over Disputed Islands with China

U.S. Defence Secretary during his visit to Japan on 16-17/9/2012 said that “this dispute between China and Japan on the subject of the islands can intensify” (AP News Agency 17/9/2012) and then added, “I am worried because when these countries start provoking one another on these disputed islands, it would enhance the possibility of making the wrong decision from one side or the other, which on its part could lead to violence and result in conflict” (the above source). The current development came to the fore in the wake of the announcement made by Japan on 11/9/2012 that she bought the three islands from a Japanese family in an archipelago of the East China Sea, thus she claims their ownership and calls them Senkaku. This scenario triggered tension between them and China who claims that these islands belong to them and she calls them Diaoyu. China sent two warships towards these islands. Questions arise as to why Japan took this step at this time and what is the potential for conflict over this issue?  


China claims that these three islands are from among the five main islands owned by her and were captured by Japan in the war that took place between them during 1894 and 1895. The Americans took control of them in World War II after they defeated the Japanese. They (Americans) annexed the administration of these islands to the Japanese island of Okinawa which they also occupied in the same war and established therein a large U.S. base. However, America handed over these islands to the Japanese in 1972 to a Japanese family and which were then subsequently purchased by another Japanese family who have been controlling them since the 1990s.  The area of all these islands in the archipelago is about 6.2 km, including the rocks surrounded by the sea water. The islands are uninhabited, but they are of strategic importance in the East China Sea. They are close to maritime navigation routes and their waters abound with fish stock. Also, there are reports that they may possibly have large reserves of oil and gas. The issue of these islands has been raised between the two countries several times, the last of which was in 2010 when a similar tension arose.

The United States officially informed Japan on 29/06/2012 that they want to deploy 12 Osprey aircraft at the U.S. Futenma base on Okinawa and that the deployment of these aircrafts will be at the end of the ongoing month with U.S. forces announcing that one of these aircrafts will begin its trip on 21 September 2012  (CNN World 20.9.2012). These development have emerged in an atmosphere of Japanese protests against the American presence, with some even demanding the departure of the American presence from their country as there are still 47 thousand U.S. troops by virtue of a bilateral security treaty signed in 1960 with the Government of Japan whilst under U.S. occupation. This is an American method which she has resorted to in order to change the form of her occupation and keep her influence in the country occupied by her as she did in Iraq when she held the U.S. security treaty with the Maliki government in 2008 under American official occupation as well as the American strategic security agreement with the Government of Afghanistan, which was signed a few months ago under the patronage of ongoing American occupation.

It was under an atmosphere of Japanese dissatisfaction with the American presence in their country, that America announced the deployment of these aircrafts. No doubt, such an announcement is likely to intensify the opposition by the Japanese. It is for this reason that America created an atmosphere of provocation with China and heightening speculation that a war China is approaching. The aim being to force the Japanese to accept the deployment of these aircrafts and mitigate their protests the American presence, on the pretext that the U.S. will support Japan in the face of China. Hence, why, in agreement with the Japanese government, the issue of the islands was raised and provocation that they belong to Japan knowing that they are disputed between the two. This scenario provoked China and created a misleading atmosphere of a clash and the possibility of war erupting. This is what pacified the Japanese opposition to the American presence in their country considering that they would lend a helping hand to them in the face of China.

Consequently, raising the issue of the islands at this time, after the announcement to deploy the aircrafts, is a deliberate step by the Government of Japan based on the U.S. plan to provoke the Chinese until the tension between Japan and China becomes apparent so that the Japanese are terrified by China and surrender to the American plans to be implemented in their region. Hence, the statements by U.S. officials indicate the forthcoming confrontation or that they are a prelude to confrontation. U.S. Defence Secretary during his visit to Japan said on 16-17/9/2012 “this dispute between the two can intensify” (A.P. News Agency 17/9/2012) and then added “I am worried because when these countries start provoking one another on these disputed islands, it would enhance the possibility of making the wrong decision from one side or the other, which on its part could lead to violence and result in conflict” (ibid). He called on “the two sides to equanimity and self-control”. U.S. Defence Secretary describes the issue as if a war is about to occur between the two countries for the sake of the American goals. He reminded Japan of the security pacts between his country and Japan to show that America is ready to stand by Japan and said, “we honour our commitments related to the treaties existing for a long time and will not change” (ibid). All these escalations are happening at a time when the US Defence Secretary is focusing in his talks with the Japanese government on US Plans to deploy 12 Osprey aircrafts in the U.S. base in the Japanese island of Okinawa amid strong opposition from the residents of the South Island as reported by the French News Agency on 16/9/2012.

The Chinese reaction was emotional and mass demonstrations were allowed through the streets of her cities to protest the Japanese step towards these islands that are officially not controlled by the Japanese state. But when it announced the purchase of three of them from the Japanese family to be owned by the Japanese state, the sovereignty of these islands officially came under the Japanese state and it was considered as if these islands were again annexed by Japan. This Japanese action provoked China who moved some of her ships that guard her territorial waters in the East China Sea toward these islands. The Prime Minister of China Wen Jiabao being impressed and touched by the Chinese emotions said: “the era of humiliating the Chinese has gone irrevocably” (A.P. News Agency 17/9/2012). The Chinese still remember the humiliation that they suffered from at the hands of the Japanese, whether it is in the war that broke out between them in the 1890’s or it is the direct Japanese occupation of China in the 1930s which lasted until Japan’s defeat in World War II by America. The complication of defeat and humiliation that afflicted the Chinese at the hands of the Japanese is still a factor of agitation and provocation for them.  

Thus, America hit two birds with one stone by pushing Japan to claim the islands, on the one hand, whilst on another, the atmosphere became strained between China and Japan so that Japan feels compelled to continue the American presence, which can be easily acceptable to the Japanese. On the other hand, America wants to keep China always busy with tense regional issues, thus preventing China from any aspirations towards any global state policy except within the limits of its territory. America continues in her plans aimed at restraining China and putting an end to her plans to strengthen its regional position in order to reach the global status, particularly towards America.

Consequently, the U.S. plan in the regional areas of China is to achieve this goal. America has already announced her plans to strengthen her presence in Asia/ Pacific Ocean as part of a new strategy when her defence secretary Leon Panetta announced on 01/06/2012 this strategy of his country in Asia/ Pacific Ocean regarding sending six aircrafts carriers and deploying 60% of its warships in this region over the coming years until 2020. Thus America is working towards igniting all the conflicts in the face of China: in the region of the East China Sea as happened with Japan and in the South China Sea as there is tension between China and the Philippines over the islands and the fishing, and also there is a dispute between China and Vietnam over the islands where the Chinese stood up and expelled the Vietnamese in 1988. All this agitation is aimed to keep China busy in these two regions.

America also stands behind these countries in the two regions with the exception of North Korea, and incites them against China so that the latter, as has been pointed out above above, is made busy in her own region and cannot be in a position to go beyond this territory, especially in view of the fact that America has full control over many of these countries such as South Korea in the East China Sea, the Philippines in the South China Sea, where there are U.S. bases. This is also the case with Indonesia and Japan who are both in the American orbit.

This is the reality about America’s role in this matter and triggering the issue of the islands currently. As for the question that this provocation will reach to the outbreak of war between China and Japan over the islands, it is unlikely at least in the foreseeable future because there are islands larger and more important than these such as the island of Taiwan, formerly known as Formosa and for which China has not ignited a war on the consideration that America has agreed that she would work to peacefully bring them back to China. Then there is a conflict with the Philippines, Vietnam and others on islands located in the South China Sea, with whom China has also not gone to war with fearing that she will open a door which she may not be able to close.

China is unlikely to sacrifice its greater interests with Japan because of these islands, because the volume of trade between them is about $ 300 billion a year and the Japanese companies operating in China employ more than 20 million Chinese workers. Additionally, China is working to take advantage of Japanese technology and expertise and therefore it is not in China’s interest to ignite a war with Japan over these islands. The Chinese Defence Minister Liang Gwaungla said in his meeting with U.S. Defence Secretary on 18/9/2012 while answering a question by journalists as to whether Beijing intends to resort to force, stating that “we still hope to have a peaceful and negotiated solution” (A.P. News Agency 18/9/2012), which indicates that it is highly unlikely that China on its part will ignite a war with Japan for these islands.

 If China remains preoccupied with her territorial issues, America could succeed in expelling China from international politics. However, China is effectively threatening U.S. policy worldwide and  is creating problems  which threaten the latter’s interests i.e. China applies the policy of effective threat to the U.S. policy in every region of the world and therefore it is easy for China to have influence in her regional domain, especially in the two regions of East and South China Sea.

Yet, the noticeable error in the Chinese policy is that it is still misled by the notion that her interference in international politics is not in her best interest and consequently only takes care of her regional concerns. She is not aware of the fact that she will never be able to control her regions if she does not have global political aspirations of creating problems for America in order to compel the latter to lessen the harassment of China in its territory. Unless China pursues this policy, she will remain at a standstill and America will continue to create regional tension for her one after the other.

Copyright © LCIR 2012