Recommended Readings: Bridging Troubled Waters – Japan and China at War in the East China Sea?

On April 30th, 2014, we are hosting an event to celebrate the release of Dr. James Manicom’s book, Bridging Troubled Waters. Our event of the same name will feature a talk with the author, as well as a networking reception. Dr. Manicom’s book analyzes the complicated relationship between Japan and China, specifically in regard to their interests in the East China Sea. We have provided  recommended readings on this topic in advance of the book launch event.


Our first reading, from the Council on Foreign Relations, titled “Obama Navigates Asia-Pacific Security Challenges” covers Obama’s remarks ahead of his ‘Asia tour,’ which began in Japan on Wednesday. Obama “assured Japan of the United States’ position that the disputed East China Sea islands (Senkaku/Diaoyu)… are covered by the defense treaty between Washington and Tokyo.” CFR asserts that there are “escalating territorial tensions in the region” and “naval chiefs from twenty Pacific Rim countries including China, the United Stated, (and) Japan… approved the first-ever code of conduct for unplanned naval encounters in a bid to avert emergencies “ in the region. CFR also warns that the Chinese “are watching for any sign of weakness in U.S.-Japan relations which might help them contest Japan’s sovereignty over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.”


Two days earlier, the Globe and Mail covered a similar story. The article, written by Nathan Vanderklippe, titled “Japan-China relationship teeters at the brink,” covers the escalating tensions in the region between Japan and China. Vanderklippe maintains that although there has been a “renewal in angry rhetoric” between the two countries, there has also been “a furious diplomatic effort… that has stirred hope among Japanese officials that the leaders of Asia’s two most powerful nations will meet in person this fall.” In late December, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “strode into Tokyo’s (controversial) Yasukuni Shrine in late December, (which) threatened to destabilize the region.” Mr. Abe has been unwelcome in China ever since visiting the war memorial, as the Chinese view the memorial as “honouring war criminals, some of whom visited atrocities on China.” Although there is renewed optimism in Japan, Vanderkippe maintains that China “remains eager to lash out at Mr. Abe whenever it can” and “Japan, if it is to accomplish a November meeting, must act with extraordinary delicacy.”


Our final reading, written by CIC-Executive member and speaker at this event, Dr. James Manicom, titled “The State of Cooperation in the East China Sea” argues that “the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands… have been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent years.” Tensions erupted back in 2010, “after Japanese authorities detained a Chinese fisherman in the islands’ territorial sea.” Since then, China and Japan’s diplomatic relationship has suffered, worsening in 2012 with the nationalization of the Islands by Japan. However, Manicom argues that “there is evidence of dispute-management efforts on all sides.” Manicom also offers policy options for the United States to help “prevent escalation of the dipute.” These options include ensuring that the U.S. will remain committed to defending Japan, but that does not mean it is a “carte blanche for provocative behaviour” on Japan’s part, and lastly, the U.S. can help “dissuade all claimants from attempting to change the status quo on the islands themselves.” Manicom ends with assuring that “war is not a forgone conclusion; there is considerable scope for dispute-management efforts to take hold between” all of the claimants. We look forward to delving deeper into this subject with Dr. Manicom on April 30th.

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