15 May 2014

FMPRC Spokesperson: the Paracel/Xisha and Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands claims issues “are so different that nothing can link these two together. That no dispute exists over the Xisha islands is a fact.”

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying’s Regular Press Conference on May 12, 2014, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China:

Q: “China says there is no dispute over the Xisha Islands, but criticizes Japan for saying there is no dispute over the Diaoyu Islands. Isn’t there a contradiction?”

FMPRC Spokesperson Hua: “These two claims are so different that nothing can link these two together. That no dispute exists over the Xisha islands is a fact. Based on sufficient historical and jurisprudential evidence, China’s sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands and the adjacent islands is indisputable, which is also a fact.”

To me, this reinforces the larger points that I made in a recent book chapter:

The reality is that claims disputes are widespread in maritime East Asia, and military and paramilitary means simply cannot be used to address them productively in today’s globalized, more-enlightened world. It is inaccurate to single Japan out in this regard: its island disputes with South Korea and Russia are not acknowledged by their respective governments. China, for its part, does not acknowledge Vietnam’s contestation of claims in the Paracel Islands, and has twice used force against Vietnam in that regard. What would be ideal for long-term peace would be to bring disputes before binding international arbitration, as the legal scholar Jerome Cohen has long advocated. The U.S. and Canada resolved their Gulf of Maine dispute successfully in precisely this manner. Currently, however, manifold factors, including deep mutual distrust, appear to leave Near Seas disputes unsuited to such resolution. In the meantime, then, preventing China—or any other entity—from using any form of force to alter the status quo remains vital.”

For further details, see Andrew S. Erickson, “Keeping the Near Seas Peaceful: American and Allied Mission, Asia-Pacific Interest,” in Richard Pearson, ed., East China Sea Tensions, Perspectives and Implications (Washington, DC: Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, 2014), 23-30.

By any measure, China’s economy and defense budget are second in size only to those of the United States. China is already a world-class military power—albeit with a regional, not global, focus.

China is achieving rapid but uneven military maritime and aerospace development, pursuing proximate military-technological priorities with disproportionate success. Particularly since the 1995-96 Taiwan Strait crisis and 1999 Belgrade embassy bombing, China has progressed rapidly in aerospace and maritime development, greatly facilitating its military modernization. The weapons and systems that China is developing and deploying mirror its geostrategic priorities. Here, distance matters greatly: after domestic stability and border control, Beijing worries most about its immediate periphery, where its unresolved disputes with neighbors and outstanding claims lie primarily in the maritime direction.

Accordingly, while it would vastly prefer pressuring concessions to waging war, China is already capable of threatening potential opponents’ military forces should they intervene in crises concerning island and maritime …

New Book Released: “East China Sea Tensions, Perspectives and Implications”

March 26, 2014

In conjunction with the Foundation’s March 25, 2014 Tokyo symposium on maritime disputes in the East China Sea, the Mansfield Foundation has released “East China Sea Tensions, Perspectives and Implications.” This publication includes ten essays on issues related to maritime and territorial disputes by experts including participants in the Foundation’s first “Symposium on East China Sea Tensions,” held in Washington, D.C., February 12, 2014.