Japan Times returns to form over Senkaku

(BTW, they also give Arnie Gundersen far too much space, but that’s another story.)

In a story that starts off promisingly, looking at right-wing loon Akihiro Suzuki and his hate for China:

The Japanese must stand tall, not be afraid, and "take pride" in "defending our territory from China," says Suzuki, who refers to Japan’s biggest neighbor throughout our interview with the derogatory wartime term "Shina." "We have truth and history on our side."

However, it soon deteriorates into rather pro-China territory, and makes erroneous assumptions with false authority.

Kyodo rehearsed the now-standard Japanese narrative of the dispute this weekend, saying that the Senkakus "have effectively been held by Japan since 1895 except for when the U.S. seized them briefly after the war." The news agency continued: "After it was reported in the 1970s that the area around the islets may have vast mineral and gas reserves, China laid claim to them."

OK, that’s basically where I stand.

Well, that’s one version of the truth, though hardly the only one. In China, many believe that Japan claimed the islets during a period of imperial expansion, at the end of the Sino-Japanese War — then kept the seizure secret for half a century. The Americans occupied them (as part of the Okinawan chain) from 1945-1972, after which many in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China expected them to be returned. Chinese claims hardly came out of the blue.

I’d expect a bit more evidence than "many believe", although there is a link at the bottom of the story to this, which I’ll look at later.

Although the two nations have roughly the same amount of coastline, Japan enjoys a total exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 4.5 million sq. km in the high seas, five times more than its much bigger and more populous neighbor.

So? simple geometry will tell you that a vaguely straight coastline hemmed in by other countries will have a much smaller EEZ than hundreds of islands dotted throughout open water.

Tokyo takes these EEZs very seriously. Consider its jurisdiction of a string of islands extending into the Pacific. At the farthest reaches is Okunotorishima (literally "remote bird island"), almost 2,000 km from the capital, roughly the same distance as from London to Reykjavik, Iceland.

It’s Okinotorishima, an error copied from the referenced article for this story, it seems. I’m also pretty sure Hawaii is more than 2,000 km from Washington. However, I do think the claims on this rock is very weak, but that’s another story.

Says McCormack: "From the Chinese viewpoint the Okinawan islands resemble nothing so much as a giant maritime Great Wall . . . potentially blocking naval access to the Pacific Ocean."

Indeed it is. Is Mr McCormack validating China’s claims on the whole of Okinawa?

Perhaps all this has been explained in the Chinese and Japanese media and we simply missed it.

Sigh, here is the appeal to ignorance. Yes, you simply missed it. I’ve heard all the above on various news and current affairs programs.

Dwyer concludes that there is no need to panic over China’s rise, but warns, "Don’t provoke the Chinese by hemming their country in with air bases, carrier fleets and military alliances, and they’ll probably behave well."

Call me brainwashed or whatever, but if Japan cedes the Senkakus to China, I do believe that it will move on to other Okinawa islands. China’s also not behaving terribly well in the South China Sea, but I’m sure that’s also all our in the West’s fault. :roll:

Suzuki, the only member of the Tokyo assembly to land (illegally) on the Senkakus, insists his hardline stance is popular. "Ninety percent of my constituents support what we did," he says. Perhaps that’s because the people who vote for him believe everything they read in the newspapers.

Two appeals to ignorance, from both Suzuki and JT here. :facepalm:

Now, on to the referenced document, "Troubled Seas: Japan’s Pacific and East China Sea Domains (and Claims)" on Japan Focus. :roll: A rant with footnotes does not an academic article make.

Commonly denounced for its [China’s] claims to islands, reefs and shoals in the South China Sea, when viewed in global terms China is a minor player in its claims on world oceans, although that fact might reinforce its determination not to yield in the spaces where it has a claim.

Aww, poor widdle China; let’s give them what they want (regardless of if it is valid or not) as we were awfully beastly to them before.

The islands (sometimes also known as the Bonin Islands), were first formally claimed by Japan and a Japanese flag was raised over them in 1862.

That was before the USA claimed Hawaii.

Since then, however, though not setting foot on them for 70 years, they have continued to collect "rent" from the Government of Japan

Why the scare quotes around rent?

There is little dissent in Japan from the proposition that, in the words of former senior diplomat Togo Kazuhiko, Japan’s position is "fundamentally solid and quite tenable under existing international law."

If the author of this article doesn’t believe the Japanese claim, why does he not question why China doesn’t bring this issue to the International Criminal Court? One reason is that China hasn’t ratified it…

Where Japan’s claim rests on a strict reading of international law (the terra nullius principle, unchallenged by China until 1970), China’s claim rests rather on longer history (and geography).

The author’s argument seems to be that international law is biased against China.

Then, the captain of a Chinese fishing boat that collided, twice, with a Japanese coastguard vessel in waters off these islands was arrested and subsequently released when the furore the event caused threatened to spin out of control.

No, he rammed two coastguard vessels, and "spin[ning] out of control" could describe the author’s position quite well.

Ishihara accused China [of…] "seeking hegemony in the Pacific, with the Senkaku/Diaoyu issue merely the first step of its ambition."

If you are quoting Ishihara, I’m pretty certain he wouldn’t say "Senkaku/Diaoyu".

A little later, asked for a comment on the birth of a baby panda at Ueno Zoo, [Ishihara] suggested it be named "Senkaku" and sent back (sic) to China.

No, he said "Sen-Sen" and "Kaku-Kaku", and there should be no "(sic)" as the panda loan agreement states that all cubs are Chinese property so they would be sent back.

Seven of them landed, this time carrying both PRC (China) and ROC (Taiwan) flags, before being detained, sent briefly by Japanese authorities to Okinawa, and then deported without trial.

Just a nice day out for a picnic! However, for the Japanese:

Days later, on 19 August, came the Japanese riposte: a convoy of 21 vessels (150 people) including national and local assembly politicians and Ganbaru Nippon’s head, Tamogami Toshio (former Chief-of-Staff of Japan’s Air Self-Defence Force and a noted right-wing revisionist and agitator) and members of the National Diet’s "Dietmembers acting to protect Japan’s territory") sailed from the Okinawan island of Ishigaki, planted Japanese Hinomaru flags and conducted ceremonies to commemorate Japan’s war dead. They were given a pro forma official rap over the knuckles for having done so without authorization, accompanying a generally positive and congratulatory national reception.

Although it is not clear from the above, just 10 people landed, and I must have missed the "generally positive and congratulatory national reception" while I was watching the Chinese getting a heroes’ welcome in Hong Kong. :roll:

By this time, passions ran high on all sides. Anti-Japanese disturbances broke out in Hong Kong and more than 20 cities across China – cars were overturned, Japanese restaurant windows smashed, and boycotts of Japanese goods threatened. Negative sentiments were reciprocated in Japan. An opinion poll conducted by the Japanese cabinet in November 2011, less than a year before this hot summer, found that 71.4 per cent of Japanese people reported having no feelings of "familiarity" or "warmth" (shitashimi) for China (against 26.3 per cent who had such feelings).

71.4% not warming to China – such high passions that surpass a riot disturbance! :roll: Furthermore, the survey actually reported 34.8% not really feeling warmth and 36.6% feeling no warmth at all.

One June 2012 survey found an overwhelming 84.3 per cent of people in Japan declaring their image of China to be "unfavourable." In China a survey conducted by a Communist Party paper Huanjing shibao (though only through its website) found 90.8 per cent of readers agreeing to the proposition that China should discuss all means, including military, for addressing the Senkaku/Diaoyu problem.

An "overwhelming" number of Japanese felt unfavourable to China, yet another 6.5 percentage points of Chinese calling for military action does not merit an adjective.

There is also a possible fourth party to the matter: the American family of descendants of the prominent late Qing official (Minister for Transportation), Sheng Xuanhuai, who by unconfirmed accounts was granted three of the islands by the then Empress Dowager, Cixi in 1893

And the grave of Jesus Christ is possibly in Aomori. :headdesk:

Through the hot summer of 2012, Ishihara’s bold populist rhetoric was matched by a rising tone of righteousness and fury at China in the Japanese media.

There may have been righteousness, but fury? Certainly I’ve not been aware of any in the mainstream media. Of course, there is no mention of Chinese media for balance.

Now I have actually had a look at a Japan Focus article in detail, it only confirms my feelings that any peer reviewing they perform is for checking writers are sticking to the party (Party?) line. :headdesk:

Leave a comment ?


  1. I was watching the news in the lounge at Hongqiao airport when the Chinese Senkaku landees were repatriated to China. I’d have to dig out my boarding pass stubs for a precise date/time.

    They left the airplane flanked by two uniformed policement per, handcuffed and decidedly despondent, and placed into (two or three?) nondescript grasshopper buses.

    At no point did I see these guys (and gals — there were a few of them, and their escorts were policewomen) hailed as returning heroes. The ten (or so) guys in military/police uniform that disembarked the plane were applauded, but those in chains were not. It looked to be the standard perp walk.

    Just my two yen, for what it’s worth.

  2. @Steve: I looked this up to check, and while I couldn’t find any video, it seems that 7 returned by air, and 7 came back by ship. Al Jazeera says:

    A group of Hong Kong activists who were deported from Japan after sailing to disputed islands in the East China Sea have returned home in a fishing trawler to a hero’s welcome.

    And here’s them departing by boat and plane and looking remarkably unhandcuffed and most welcome back in China in a video I found that is probably the coverage I saw myself live on TV:

  3. Well, that’s David McNeill put firmly in the box of shit journalists for writing that piece about Gundersen.


    has a nice story about McNeill faking information in his copy. He actually admitted it, and I got the impression that it might just have been a hack on a bad day.

    But Christ alive knows how a journalist in Japan, who by now should be intimate with the various characters in the pro- and anti- nuclear debate, should not be aware that Arnie Gundersen is an attention-seeking charlatan who earns his living coming up with bullshit.

    David McNeill is either a cynical bastard, a lazy bastard, or just thick. Judging by the spiked report, it’s a bit of all three.

  4. Chrysanthemum Sniffer

    It would be the International Court of Justice, not the ICC, to which such claims would be lodged. I’m pretty sure China is a member of the former.

  5. CJ’s been tweeting his take on the matter:

    “Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute is merely symptom. Disease is unlimited freedom in Japan, China to hate, harass foreigners. http://www.japantoday.com/category/kuchikomi/view/nasty-nationalists-converge-on-shin-okubos-koreatown

    “IMO Jpn and China govs both responsible for fanning xenophobic hate cultures. Yet world media blaming Beijing only”

    “Jpn govt allows thugs (including Ishihara) to freely express hate for Chinese, other foreigners. China doing same”

    And then the real Freudian slip:
    “Jpn media taboo topic: Japan detains, deports 1000s of Chinese on visa issues. They go home, spread hate for Jpn”

  6. Why is the article on the Senkakus called “shilling for our side”? It doesn’t even make sense. Does the person who thought up the title know what “shill” means?

    I agree about Japan Focus. It appears to have awful peer review in the sense that is generally understood (checking for errors, quality, scholarship, balance) – the most distinctive characteristic is the party line.

    Here’s the thing. McCormack is the co-ordinator for the journal. Is it really ethical for him to be publishing in the journal he manages? Here’s an interesting discussion:


    Japan Focus isn’t the only journal about Japanese and East-Asian issues. Is this an article he tried to publish elsewhere?

    By the way, has anyone else noticed how the BBC shows the map of the Senkaku islands?


    See how only Okinawa honto is marked on the islands? The Yaeyamas are made to look as if they’re not part of Okinawa and hence, not part of Japan.

  7. This current situation should be less about islands and the resources that are around them, and more about being against ultra-nationalistic violent hate marches. The one that happened in Shin-Okubo is judge by the same standards as the ones in China, the nationality of the people doesn’t matter.


    I have emailed the BBC about that a few weeks back (very diplomatically), and got no reply. It’s very obviously biased.

  8. I also sent a mail about that map a couple weeks ago. No reply from BBC, but around that time a few stories appeared that used no map at all, but they started using it again about a week ago. Probably a coincident, as the copy there always had an anti-Japan slant, unless it’s that idiot Buerk writing some nonsense about robots or sex or pets.

  9. @VK:

    I am not convinced that there is any significant issue here.

    Better to consider the arguments put forth in the article, rather than get sidetracked by “is it ethical for one of the coordinators (read: editors) to publish in said journal”.

    For what it is worth, I think there is a lot of merit to the piece, but I disagree with the assessment that critiques of the Chinese position rest upon ‘Westernized’ notions of law and post-colonial duplicity.

  10. @beneaththewheel:

    I think it’s more about the level of destruction. In Japan that level being practically zero. In China that level being facories burned down, department stores wrecked, the Embassy attacked and damaged, billions of yen in property damage, and the Chinese authorities do nothing to stop it or punish the criminals who committed it. (But why would they, since they allow, organize, and planned the protests in the first place)

    That some people are willing to sell themselves out and take the Chinese side, the side of actual oppression, violence, brutality, prison camps, murder, imprisoning Nobel Peace Prize winners..

    and pretend to be better than us who dare to say the bleeding obvious, that Japanese land is Japanese land?

    They call us the “apologists”?

    But seriously, you don’t see them moving to China. Nope, when it comes to living and working, they prefer Japan.

    Deeds speak louder than words.

  11. @Ken Y-N: Yeah, dunno. That clip is not what I saw.

    What I saw was about fifteen people, mostly male but a few female, disembark from a plane with heavy police escort at a mainland China airport (not Hong Kong).

    My Mandarin is near non-existant, but the banner bug at the bottom of the screen said 钓鱼岛 (in part) and my Chinese colleague was giving me grief about the whole “the islands belong to us” bit.

    It very well could have been a completely unrelated thing, given my lack of Mandarin-fu, so take it for what it’s worth — a completely unverified report from an unqualified observer :smile:

  12. amanda in japan | living in ihatov country - pingback on September 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm
  13. “That some people are willing to sell themselves out and take the Chinese side…and pretend to be better than us who dare to say the bleeding obvious, that Japanese land is Japanese land…”

    That doesn’t seem to be a very helpful way of framing things.

    It’s still possible to deplore the scenes we’ve seen in China while refraining from coming down one any particular side.

    I have few strong opinions on the various territorial disputes in the region. Partly, that’s because my Japanese is fine for today’s world, but I wouldn’t be as confident parsing meanings from maps and documents over a hundred years old. Any sources in languages other than Japanese or English would be a complete mystery. This makes me reliant on other people’s interpretations, which are hard to adjudicate.

    Also, if I came across a Japanese resident of Britain who had firm opinions about British territorial claims in, say, Gibraltar, I might find him a little odd.

  14. Well, almost every piece of land on Earth was claimed, seized, or stolen from someone else, going back thousands of years. What’s the statute of limitations on this?

    If China recognizes the islands as Japanese until the 1970’s, then invents a claim when it turns out there might be valuable stuff nearby, why can’t descendants of local Polynesian Tribe X make an older claim and trump that, and Polynesian tribe Y, which was earlier conquered by Tribe X can trump that. And Tribe Z which had been pushed out by Tribe Y trumps that, until you somehow genetically trace down to the descendants of the first human to set foot there? or the first human to fish nearby? or the first human to see it?

    Can the Ainu claim a sizable chunk of Japan? Who gets Hawaii? The Kamehameha clan? The people the Kamehameha clan conquered? The people those people conquered or pushed out? And on and on…

    Anyway, it seems there are new-ish disputes between China and practically every country nearby… I sense a pattern. Similar to that of a 2-year-old who has just decided his favorite word is “MINE!”

  15. @VK:

    Thanks for the spikedjapan link.

    While David McNeill’s articles may be debatable, (very debatable) he surely does handle criticism WAY better than certain other people.

    He was friendly, engaging, some admission of error…
    not ingoring/banning people, no harassment or libel campaigns, no calling peoples’ employers trying to get them fired, and no threats of violence! Bravo! (though there was perhaps an appeal for some censorship, but it was apparently not pursued..well, supporting freedom of speech of people with ideas they don’t like is often a weak point with many “enlightened” journalists)

    Still, a lesson to those certain other people, including a certain professional freelance journalist.

  16. @Level3: I’m sure people get so vocal about these islands being MINEMINEMINE because of the convenience; they’re uninhabited oceanic rock-turds. No one has to be physically displaced for these rock-turds to change hands, so a nation can freely bang its ownership drum without looking like too much of an asshole. (The main problem with Japan’s claim to Kunashir, etc. is the fact that there are a bunch of Russians living there now.)

  17. @Level3:

    I agree – he came across in the spiked article like a really nice guy ready to put his hand up. His openness actually made me want to trust him more.

    In addition he writes for The Independent , a highbrow British newspaper notable chiefly for its phenomenally dull recounting of the facts.

    Butbutbut, there are people who are open about their mistakes because they regret them, and people who are open about their mistakes because it can be charming. So many of us here and on other websites, while holding down full-time jobs, seemed to have grasped the fundamentals of the nuclear debate better than most foreign journalists working in Japan who are paid to learn about it.

    And you’d have thought by now at least some of them had learnt the importance of getting it on the nail, with not too much scare, not too much Officer Brady.

  18. @VK:

    He writes for the Irish Times too. That’s highbrow!
    (Well, it has a really difficult crossword puzzle … :razz: )

  19. As an aside, this whole thing is causing me some personal concern. I am scheduled to fly to Shanghai in a couple of days using China Eastern Airlines, and I am not looking forward to the battle for control of the centre armrest.

  20. @VK:

    Whether the attitude is genuine or not.. some poeple should ask themselves why McNeill has a much better life than they do. Maybe take a hint.

    You can still be a less-than-perfect journalist with a bit of an anti-Japan or anti-corporate spin, use discredited hacks as sources if it supports your foregone conclusion, (I think I just described 90% of professional journos) and still do quite well, you just have stop giving in to your hateful urges.

    Do they not learn anything from Master Yoda?
    “Fear (of being exposed as a liar/hack/loon) leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering”

    Mostly their own suffering, though. Since there’s no dark side force lightning or remote choking in the real world. Their only weapons are libel, harassment and calling peoples’ employers, and those tactics become less and less effective as more people find out you’re a nut.

  21. @Level3:

    Of course, no one is as bad as the ex-volleyball hack. But one thing that that particular hack understands well is the phenomenon of journalism as performance. It doesn’t need to be true, it needs to be truthy.

    I think the situation is this: a lot of journalists based out here are generalists who clearly struggle with the range of topics they are supposed to cover. They are meant to be diplomatic/economic/social/political/science/health/environmental correspondents rolled into one. And they’re doing that in a foreign country that speaks a very different language that they’ve not always mastered so well. Add to that the pressure to file interesting copy in order to get published; this isn’t America where if the President farts the national press in Lithuania describes the smell for you. You’ve got to make Japan interesting to get your name in print.

    So the culture of FC journalism reorients to performance: can they sound knowledgeable even when they aren’t (i.e. promote stereotypes and internet memes in a world-weary tone like they’re wisdom), and can they entertain (report on the wacky and the scary).

    I’m not sure how many of these hacks are aware of this happening to them, and of the compromised position they’re in.


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