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HOME  > Past issues  > 2012 September 19 - 25  > JCP urges gov’t to settle Senkaku dispute through diplomacy
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2012 September 19 - 25 [TERRITORIAL ISSUE]

JCP urges gov’t to settle Senkaku dispute through diplomacy

September 21, 2012
Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo on September 20 met with Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura Osamu at the Prime Minister’s Office and handed over the JCP proposal calling for a settlement of the Senkaku dispute through diplomatic negotiations.

At the beginning, concerning exacerbating the dispute and tension between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands (called Diaoyu Islands in Chinese), Shii conveyed the JCP position demanding that the Chinese government promote their people’s self-restraint and take full-scale measures to secure the safety of Japanese citizens, corporations, and the embassy in China. He also said to Fujimura, “The two governments should refrain from adopting forceful measures and considering military responses.”

Explaining the “JCP’s View on Senkaku” (issued in October 2010) which describes Japan’s possession of the islands as legitimate based on history and international law, Shii pointed out that the Japanese government stance on the territorial issue has serious problems: repeatedly denying any territorial dispute with China; and avoidance of making efforts in talks with China to state that Japan has the legitimacy to claim sovereignty over the islands.

Shii cited the Japanese government’s stance to shelve the issue of the territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands during negotiations for the normalization of Japan-China relations in 1972 and on the Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty in 1978. To take such a stance in diplomatic talks just means that the Japanese government apparently accepted the existence of a territorial dispute between the two countries, he said.

Shii went on to say that the Japanese government continued to deny the existence of a territorial issue in disregard of the actual situation and thus it became unable to present its case to China, which blocked the way to settle the dispute through diplomatic negotiations.

Concerning the government stance that no territorial issue exists, Shii said, “At the surface, it may appear to be taking a strong attitude, but it actually puts Japan in a weak position in which the government can neither justify its position nor refute the Chinese argument.” He proposed that the state should change its stance and admit there is a territorial dispute between the two nations. “To solve the problem, it is needed for the government to directly claim sovereignty over the islands through diplomatic negotiations in a calm and rational manner,” he added.

The JCP chair pointed out that sticking to the outdated government position is making it difficult for Japan to claim its dominion over the islands at opportunities presented at international summits. “To open the way for the solution, the government should send out a clear message with the intention of persuading Chinese people,” he said.

The secretary replied that the point raised by the JCP makes sense and the administration will take it into consideration.

* * *

Solve Senkaku Islands Issue through Diplomatic Negotiations

Shii Kazuo
Executive Committee Chair
Japanese Communist Party
September 20, 2012

Serious tension and confrontation have been developing between Japan and China over the Senkaku islands (called “Diaoyu islands” in China). The Japanese Communist Party hereby expresses its current view and proposal on how this issue should be solved.


At the outset, it is unacceptable to use violent actions to express criticism against Japan for whatever reasons. One must uphold an attitude of trying to solve any problems calmly and based on reason. The JCP urges the government of China to promote self-restraint by the Chinese public and to take all possible measures to ensure the safety of Japanese residents, companies, and diplomatic missions in China.

Various arguments in support of further forceful measures and possible military responses will not benefit either nation and may dangerously close the avenues to seek a rational solution to the problem. Both Japan and China are required to exercise great self-restraint.


The JCP has already expressed its view that Japan’s possession of the Senkaku Islands is legitimate based on history and international law. A JCP statement on the Senkaku Islands question issued on October 4, 2010 made the following points:

- Japan declared on January 14, 1895 that it incorporated the Senkaku Islands into Japanese territory. This act was totally justified as “occupation” of terra nullius, whose legitimacy was recognized under international law.

- Although China claims sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands, the biggest problem with its argument is the fact that for 75 years, from 1895 to 1970, China never raised any objections or made protests in regard to Japan’s territorial rights over the islands.

- The focal point of China’s argument is that the Senkakus are part of China’s territory as islands appertaining to Taiwan and were unjustly taken over by Japan in the Sino-Japanese War. However, the Senkakus were not included among the territories that Japan unjustly took from China. So China’s argument does not hold water. Japan’s possession of the Senkaku Islands was a justified act which fell under a different category from the cession of Taiwan and the Penghu Islands that Japan robbed from China unjustly in the war.

The JCP statement emphasized that in order to resolve the dispute over the Senkaku Islands, it is important for the Japanese government to clearly demonstrate to the international community as well as the Chinese government the legitimacy of Japan’s sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands based on history and international law as clearly and rationally as possible.


In this regard, the attitude of successive Japanese governments contains serious problems.

All they have been repeating is the rigid position that there are no territorial disputes over the Senkakus, thus continually avoiding making the necessary efforts to assert legitimacy of Japan’s sovereignty over those islands though diplomatic negotiations as rationally as possible.

Historically, the Japanese government took two problematic approaches.

First, it put the territorial question related to the Senkakus in “temporary suspension” when diplomatic relations between Japan and China were normalized in 1972 as well as when the Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty was concluded in 1978.

During the negotiations over the Japan-China normalization, the then Japanese Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei raised the issue by asking, “What do you think about the Senkaku Islands?” and the then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai answered, “It is not good to talk about it now.” This constituted a virtual agreement between both sides to put the issue in a state of “temporary suspension.”

Just before the Peace and Friendship Treaty was signed between two countries in 1978, Deng Xiaoping, the then Chinese vice premier, said to the then Japanese Foreign Minister Sonoda Sunao, “Let us leave it there,” and Sonoda responded, “You do not need to say more.” Again, there was a tacit understanding between both sides to put the issue on hold.

The Japanese government should have made a clear case regarding the legitimacy of Japan’s sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands to the Chinese side as rationally as possible when diplomatic relations were normalized or when the peace treaty was concluded. Putting the issue on hold was a meek attitude to adopt in diplomatic negotiations.

At the same time, putting the Senkaku Islands issue in “temporary suspension” meant nothing other than Japan admitted to the existence of a territorial dispute in the negotiations with China.


Second, nevertheless, the Japanese government has subsequently continued to state that “there exists no issue of territorial sovereignty to be resolved concerning the Senkaku Islands.” This attitude has created the following problems:

- The Japanese government has never asserted to the Chinese government the legitimacy of Japan’s sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands rationally because doing so was believed to be tantamount to admitting to the existence of a territorial dispute. It is now caught in its own trap by insisting that there are no territorial disputes.

- The Chinese government has been repeating its claim that the Japan’s possession of the Senkaku Islands was due to an “act of aggression under Japanese militarism” by stating that “as the Qing government's defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War was all but certain, Japan illegally occupied the Diaoyu island and its affiliated islands” or “Japan's position on the issue (…) is an outright denial of the outcomes of the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War and constitutes a grave challenge to the post-war international order.” However, the Japanese government has made no rebuttal to these assertions. By denying the existence of the territorial disputes, it again falls into its own trap of not being able to make a counter-argument.

- Various moves related to the Senkaku islands have been a source of increased tension between Japan and China because those actions were taken without making efforts to solve the question through diplomatic negotiations under the premise that territorial disputes do exist.

It is an undeniable fact that there is a dispute over the Senkaku Islands between Japan and China. This was admitted to in effect by the Japanese side during negotiations before normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China in 1972 and the signing of the Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty in 1978. Despite that, the Japanese government has been avoiding any diplomatic negotiations over the issue, saying “there are no territorial disputes,” thus taking a self-defeating attitude that would close off avenues to a diplomatic solution.

In spite of an intension to take a strong position by denying the existence of territorial disputes itself, this attitude conversely weakens Japan’s position by precluding opportunities to make a case for Japan or to refute the Chinese arguments.


The Japanese government should correct its denial of the existence of a territorial dispute, admit squarely to its existence, and commit itself to solving the issue through diplomatic negotiations calmly and based on reason.

Settlement of territorial disputes requires not only government-to-government negotiations but also approaches that are persuasive to the general public of the relevant country. What is now necessary is a calm and persuasive diplomatic effort to explain to the Chinese people who believe that these islands were taken by “aggression by Japanese militarism” the historical facts and the international principles regarding this issue, combined with serious reflection over Japan’s past wars of aggression.
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