On Aug. 15, a group of activists from Hong Kong succeeded in their bid to land on the disputed Tiaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea, an island chain currently controlled by Japan which is also claimed by Taiwan and China.
This was the first successful landing on the Tiaoyutais, known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyutais in China, by activists from either side of the Taiwan Strait since 2004.
The fact that the national flags of both the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China were brought onto the islands and flown over the territory this time demonstrates that it's impossible for Taipei and Beijing to remain separate from each other on the issue, although Japan and the United States would not welcome such a development.
The incident also marked a rare show of unanimity between the blue and green camps in Taiwan.
While President Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang asserted that the ROC "will not give an inch" on the territorial claim, Yilan Magistrate Lin Tsung-hsien from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said the Tiaoyutais have been "part of Chinese territory since ancient times." DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang, meanwhile, said openly that "the Tiaoyutais are ours."
The activists were able to land on the islands this time because the Japanese side showed political restraint and did not take drastic action to expel them.
As we have pointed out previously, Japan should deal with the Tiaoyutai dispute carefully so as not to become the target of attack from all sides, at a time when tensions are escalating between Japan and Russia and South Korea over territorial disputes involving the Southern Kurils and Takeshima Island.
Sixty-seven years ago on Aug. 15, the late Japanese Emperor Hirohito announced the surrender of Japan to the allies at the end of World War II. In a ceremony marking the anniversary, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda renewed Japan's pledge to maintain its stance of renouncing war and vowed to continue to pursue world peace.
But how can Japan possibly take hold of the Tiaoyutais without the risk of a war?
Without an ultimate resolution, all that can be done now is to continue to maintain the "disputed status quo" of the Tiaoyutais. Politicians in Japan should not allow themselves to be manipulated by such right-wing extremists as Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, who triggered the latest Tiaoyutai drama by launching a campaign to buy the islands from their private owners in April. (Editorial abstract -- Aug. 17, 2012)
(By Y.F. Low)