The U.S. Must Avoid the Trap on East China Sea
- President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and Members of the U.S. Congress
- United States of America
We, as people concerned about peace in the world, write to call your attention to growing tensions Japan has provoked in East Asia in its territorial disputes with neighboring countries, and urge your actions to exercise a U.S. role in deterring the continuation of such provocation.
As the world marks the 67th anniversary of Japan’s unconditional surrender that concluded World War II, we are again haunted by the memories of Japan’s militarism and imperialistic expansionism that propelled its invasion of Asia and the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Japan has never formally repented for its atrocities against the world. Its leaders continue to worship the Yasukuni Shrine where war criminals’ tablets are kept. Its right-wing activists have repeatedly sought to rewrite textbooks to distort its war history. There are more signs that its extremists, in a heady romanticism with Japan’s prewar “glory” in which violence and aggression were exalted, have been stepping up their attempt to revive Japan’s militarist past.
A most recent example is the Japanese move to “nationalize” the Diaoyu (called Senkaku by Japan) Islands. The move is reopening the old wounds an imperialistic Japan inflicted upon the people of the region and fueling concerns about peace and stability in the area.
The Diaoyu Islands are unequivocally territories of China, which Japan failed to return to their rightful owner at the end of World War II.
The Cairo Declaration of 1943 asserted that “Japan shall be stripped of all the islands in the Pacific which she has seized or occupied since the beginning of the First World War in 1914, and that all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa, and the Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China. Japan will also be expelled from all other territories which she has taken by violence and greed.”
Numerous historical documents, some dating back to as early as 1403, recorded the Diaoyu Islands as part of China. Japan seized the islands and Taiwan after the Sino-Japanese war in 1894. In 1941, a court in Tokyo ruled that the Diaoyu Islands belonged to Taiwan, settling a dispute between Taiwan and Ryukyus (Okinawa) – both governed by Japan at the time – regarding the governance of the islands. Throughout history, fishermen from Taiwan have been fishing around the Diaoyu Islands.
With Japan’s return of Taiwan to China in 1945, the Diaoyu Islands should also have been returned as part of Taiwan. However, in the Okinawa Reversion Agreement signed in 1971, the U.S. ambiguously and inappropriately included the Diaoyu Islands as part of Ryukyus that it reverted to Japan the next year, thus planting the main cause for the current dispute.
1. Continue to take the neutral position and not side with Japan in the territorial dispute over the Diaoyu Islands. Clarify that the Diaoyu Islands are not covered by the Security Treaty Between the United States and Japan, so as to avoid the risk of being dragged into a military conflict between Japan and China, and to avoid emboldening the militant faction in Japan to instigate aggression.
2. Recognize that supporting Japan to take over the Diaoyu Islands will aid the breeding of the Japanese militarism and imperialistic expansionism, which will be detrimental to the peace of East Asia and the world.