Senator Carr also emphasised the fact that it would not be in the interests of the region to have two of Australia’s largest trading partners at loggerheads, and that they should instead resolve their difficulties. What this tells us is that the Australian government has been paying attention to the territorial conflicts involving its neighbours to the north, and hasn’t been all that impressed with the manner in which they’ve been handled by each respective government. As Japan and South Korea are both allies of the US, and given the need for solidarity between ‘democracies’ in the face of the challenge posed by China, Australia may have been echoing American sentiment by asking both Japan and South Korea to reach an agreement on territorial issues and other concerns lest it harm the potential for a future coalition against China.
On the question of China, Senator Carr was understandably diplomatic, reiterating an often-used justification which says that ties between Australia and its regional partners aren’t aimed at containing China (which no-one believes for an instant), and that international relations isn’t a zero sum game (unless, of course, a state acts in a manner that makes any other diplomatic measures untenable, in which case it very much becomes a zero sum game). Given the fact that most Australian observers have heard this rhetoric from Senator Carr (and his predecessor Kevin Rudd, not to mention PM Gillard and Defence Minister Smith) on numerous occasions, the sole reason it keeps getting dragged out into public debate is because within the recesses of the ALP (make that both sides of politics) there is a fear that unless they approach China with a high degree of discretion, they will upset the Chinese sufficiently that the mining boom will cease and Australia will be left high and dry with smaller export ratios and fewer coffers for infrastructure spending and growing unemployment. Of course, whether the Chinese swallow such rhetoric is difficult to judge, yet its re-emergence in think tank symposia and editorial commentary by Chinese intellectuals indicates that the Chinese don’t believe it either (E and E), but give Australia the benefit of the doubt for appearance’s sake.
Foreign Minister Kishida’s visit also resulted in yet another op-ed from the Chinese Consul General to Sydney Duan Jielong. Although Consul Duan’s op-ed in Monday’s the Australian (E) was aimed at Japan’s Consul General to Sydney, Dr Masahiro Kohara (one imagines these two won’t be sharing any pleasantries at diplomatic community functions in the near future), the timing of the article with Kishida’s visit gave China some leeway to make its views about the Senkaku Islands known to an Australian audience without drawing too much attention to the issue (things might be very different if, say, Ambassador Chen Yuming fired off a missive on Japan’s attempt to “undermine the post-war international order”). Without wanting to be drawn into the rival claims to sovereignty over the islands, it is interesting to note that by advocating the Postdam Proclamation (or Declaration) as the reason for Japan’s surrender of sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands, Duan is basically supporting the US position on the islands. The proclamation says that in relation to territories… “(8) The terms of the Cairo declaration shall be carried out and Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine” (E, we in this case meaning the US, the British Empire, and the Republic of China, i.e the Guomindang, not the CCP. Incidentally the paragraph does not say, as Duan claims,that “all of the territories that were taken from China shall be restored to China”- indeed China is not mentioned at all. As for the Cairo Declaration, it was a statement of intent which said that all territories Japan had stolen from the Chinese would be restored to the Republic of China. It made no mention of the Senkaku Islands, neither did it state that those territories returned would be transferred from the control of the Republic of China to the People’s Republic of China -E).
In the aftermath of WWII, the Senkaku Islands came under the control of US forces, where they remained until the reversion of Okinawa and adjacent islands to Japanese sovereignty in 1972. The Postdam Proclamation, which is more of an ultimatum than a bilateral agreement of surrender (with lines such as “(13) The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction”), was not intended to demarcate Japan’s territorial sovereignty in perpetuity (given the fact that the islands to which Japan still had claim had not been established by the time the Proclamation was issued). In the Japanese Instrument of Surrender signed in September 1945, it states… “We hereby undertake for the Emperor, the Japanese Government, and their successors to carry out the provisions of the Potsdam Declaration in good faith, and to issue whatever orders and take whatever action may be required by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers or by any other designated representative of the Allied Powers for the purpose of giving effect to that declaration” (E). In other words, Japan was to undertake the provisions of the Potsdam Proclamation in the manner dictated by the Allied powers (and not according to its own interpretation).
In examining which islands would be included as Japanese territory in the return of Okinawa in 1972 the US, as one of the draftees of the Postdam Proclamation, and without the objections of either the Republic of China or the British Empire (which had long since dissolved), established that the Senkaku Islands were under Japanese control. This was implicitly understood by both the US and Japan before being made explicit in a revision of the 2013 National Defence Authorization Act in December last year (E). Hence Consul Duan, by stating that the Postdam Proclamation determined Japanese territorial sovereignty, gives credence to the authority wielded by the US and its allies in the closing days of WWII and their judgment on what constituted Japanese territory. This is, it is safe to say, probably not what Consul Duan intended when he wrote his op-ed.