China, Japan act like spoiled children over insignificant islands

November 3, 2010 — by Stanley Yip

Most of us have allowed some insignificant dilemma escalate into a massive problem. This is potentially the situation in the latest schism between China and Japan.

On Sept. 7, a Chinese fishing trawler crashed into two Japanese Coast Guard patrol boats in disputed territory. This crash has re-sparked arguments over the sovereignty of islands in this area.

Known as the Senkaku Islands to the Japanese and the Diaoyu Islands to the Chinese, the uninhabited islands in the East China Sea had little importance to the international community until this incident.

The dilemma over the ownership of the islands began in 1937 during the Sino-Japanese War. Japan originally claimed the islands because no substantial evidence supported the Qing empire’s control.

After Japan’s victory in the war, the Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed, ceding Taiwan and its associated islands to Japan. However, after Japan’s defeat in WWII, the Treaty of San Francisco nullified all prior treaties of Japan, including the Treaty of Shimonoseki.

The dispute lies in whether the islands were part of Taiwan. If they were not, Japan would still hold its ownership even after the nullification of the Treaty of Shimonoseki. But, on the other hand, if they were, then the floor is empty for debate on who should claim the islands.

Tensions have risen over this key point with large-scale protests against the opposite country on both sides. Warfare is becoming more likely since both sides refuse to compromise.

If fighting does occur, the U.S. would become embroiled in the dispute because of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty of 1960, which states that the U.S. will come to Japan’s aid if areas under Japan’s administration are under threat.

Officially, the U.S. holds no position on the matter currently, which contradicts the treaty. But should fighting occur, diplomatic ties on both sides for the U.S. would become stretched to the breaking point.

In the current global situation, a dispute over uninhabited islands that could escalate into war seems childish. The territory contains only five islands and three rocks with a total area of 7 square kilometers, less than a quarter of the area of Saratoga.

With that in mind, why would two global powers let something so minuscule evolve into a global catastrophe? More pressing matters demand greater attention than a few pieces of remote land.

Both countries should simply agree to a joint ownership of the islands or just drop the entire ordeal and assume no ownership at all.

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