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2016.08.23

The nature of the Chinese claim of islands

The legal effect of the award of the International Arbitration Court on the Chinese aggressive conducts in the South China Sea is limited to the dispute between the Philippines and China, but if legal action is raised for other islands, the court may well apply the same principle that the claim has to be proven against evidence. In fact the court would not dare discuss such hypothetical cases, but countries can.

As for the Senkaku islands China argues that there are mentions in the Chinese old documents, but they are mostly travel records by the emissaries sent from the Ming Court to Okinawa(Ryukyu),and they do not indicate that the Ming Court ruled the islands.
To the contrary, there are many official documents of the Ming Dynasty which specifically said the border of that Empire was basically the coast line of the continent.

Examples:
『観海集』「過東沙山、是閩山盡處」
『皇明実録』「臺山、礵山、東湧、烏丘、彭湖、彭山 、皆是我閩門庭之内、豈容汝一跡此外溟渤、華夷所共」
萬暦『福州府志』巻三「疆域」「東抵海一百九十里」
『大明一統志』巻七十四福建・福州府「東至海岸一百九十里」

These documents are relevant with Taiwan as well. Taiwan is also far away from the Ming border which ended at the coast line. Taiwan was situated in the area 溟渤,華夷所共.
These descriptions fit well with the history of Taiwan. Taiwan was surely under the rule of Ching dynasty, but only since 1683 and only partially. The greater part of the Eastern half of Taiwan was never ruled by any dynasty of China. That area was demarcated as 番’s land and the Chinese were prohibited to enter. No doubt China should be aware of this history.

Despite all these documentary records China claims that Taiwan, Diaoyu (Senkaku) islands, Penghu islands etc. are territories of the PRC as is written in the Territorial law of 1992. And in addition to that, China maintains ‘One China’policy that Taiwan and China constitute China.
One reason for the 1992 law may be that China wants to become an oceanic super power and to secure the area between the continent and the so called ‘first chain of islands’ which runs from the Okinawa, Taiwan, the Philippines and Borneo. China claims that it has jurisdiction over the oceanic area of three million square kilometers. It also claims that the continental shelf of China extends well beyond the half line between the continental coast and coast lines of Okinawa, the Philippines and Borneo.
There is another reason, I think. These islands mentioned in the 1992 law were all held by the militarist Japan, and isn’t China trying to take them ‘back’?
The Japanese militarism has always been the biggest problem for China. On the one hand, China is nervously opposed to its revival, which should be supported by many countries, and on the other hand, wants to take all the territories which were ‘stolen(Cairo/Potsdam Declaration)’by the militarist Japan, which should not be supported by countries.

Even if China has these two reasons, it must follow the international law. With respect to the ocean, countries have to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
As to the settlement of war with Japan, the situation is a bit more complicated. Japan accepted at the time of surrender to the allied powers the Cairo Declaration through the Potsdam Declaration, Therefore Japan had no objection to returning Taiwan to the Republic of China, and fulfilled its commitment in the San Francisco Peace Treaty by renouncing the right to Taiwan(article2b).
Therefore the Taiwanese people may think that Taiwan was returned to the ROC, but the Japanese are not quite sure, which does not mean that the Japanese think that Taiwan was returned to the PRC. They are not sure of that either. Japan only renounced Taiwan, because at the time of the Cairo Declaration there was only one regime in China, that is the ROC, but at the time of the Peace Treaty there were two regimes, that is the ROC and the PRC.

For the PRC there is another aspect. Taiwan is the place where the internal war between the KMT and the CCP is still going on. The two sides are not actually fighting now, but they have agreed neither to end the war nor to cease fire.
Therefore for China, Taiwan is an island to take back not only from the militarist Japan, but also from the ROC.
This is, I think, the nature of the Chinese claim hidden behind their ‘one China’ policy.

China could try to solve these problems in accordance with the international law. But China does not want to do so, because it can easily foresee the bad result if it is taken to the international court.
Therefore China decided, I think, to pursue a new course of action to ignore such international rules and to solve by consultations excluding the countries of other area and the international authorities, while repeating that these islands belong to China ever since the ancient times.
But it is simply impossible to solve the problems left behind from the militarist Japan excluding the major members of the allies of the Second World War. China should realize that there cannot be any real solution which goes against the international law. I hope China understands that countries cannot be moved by Chinese lucrative offers in trade, tourism, infrastructure building, etc.

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