Tag Archives: maritime

Daily Update, June 26, 2012

  • How to Defuse South China Sea Conflicts –Taylor Fravel in WSJ
    To neutralize such standoffs, the focus should first be on reducing proximate causes. For example, even though it would not address the underlying dispute, a joint or multilateral fishing agreement could remove one major source of friction in the South China Sea. …

    Finally, Scarborough shows us how Washington handles these disputes. The Obama administration walked a fine line between supporting its ally and maintaining neutrality (as it repeatedly emphasized) in the sovereignty debate. The U.S. pledged to honor the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines but didn’t specify whether the treaty covered the shoal. Washington urged the claimants to pursue their claims peacefully while quietly supporting the drafting of a broader and more robust code of conduct for preventing future confrontations.

  • China, U.S. Sign $3.4 Billion in Deals – WSJ.com
    “Companies from China and the U.S. on Saturday signed a total of $3.4 billion in bilateral investment projects.” Present at The U.S.-China Cities Forum on Economic Cooperation and Investment in Nanjing: Chinese finance minister Xie Xuren, Asst. U.S. Treasury Secretary Marisa Lago. “They signed contracts on 42 bilateral investment projects in areas including manufacturing, new energy, property, logistics and entertainment.”
  • China urges Philippines not to exacerbate South China Sea situation
    Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei made the remark at a regular press briefing while commenting on the establishment of a Philippine kindergarten on Zhongye Island in the South China Sea.
  • Aquino says government to support Recto Bank gas exploration
  • North Korea Tests the Patience of Its Ally, China – NYTimes.com
  • China urges ASEAN to be independent – Xinhua | English.news.cn
  • U.S. submarine in Philippines for resupply
    MANILA: The US embassy on Monday reported that another American nuclear-powered fast attack submarine docked in the Philippines amid reports of the ramming by a Chinese vessel of a Filipino fishing boat that killed a crewman at the disputed Scarborough Shoal.
  • China sends patrol ships to South China Sea
    ABOARD HAIJIAN 83, June 26 (Xinhua) — A patrol team consisting of four China Marine Surveillance (CMS) ships on Tuesday sailed from south China’s coastal city of Sanya to the South China Sea to conduct regular patrols.

China–Japan maritime arrests: to care or not to care?

After China’s stern reaction last year to the arrest of a Chinese sailor who rammed Japanese ships near islands disputed by the two countries, the world media has braced itself for another round of “tensions” following a new arrest.

The fact that both Japanese and Chinese authorities are calling the incident a “regular fisheries case” is reassuring. This arrest, however, was different.

The arrest last year took place near the islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China that have been a long-standing point of contention between the two countries. Activists in both countries have mobilized to claim sovereignty. To make things more complicated, Taiwanese protesters have also staked claims.

This year’s incident took place in a far less sensitive area, near the Gotō Islands (or 五島). No one disputes these islands to my knowledge, and they are far closer to Japan’s larger islands, off the coast near Nagasaki.

The Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, on the other hand, are closer to Taiwan than to the major Japanese islands, and they have been disputed for decades.

In the map below, Senkaku/Diaoyu is indicated with a red marker:


View Larger Map

This map Gotō is indicated:


View Larger Map

We’re left with media reports that generally don’t bother with the fact that the newer arrest took place in an undisputed territory very near Japan’s core area whereas the first took place near a hotly disputed territory far closer to the Chinese mainland or Taiwan than to most of Japan’s population.

It would seem to signify stability (or signify nothing) that both governments agree to follow ordinary law about this particular encounter. As far as I can tell, there is nothing odd here; this should be a routine case. It would be a story if and only if there was a hot-headed reaction.

This comes down to expectations. The people who think this non-event is a story are working with the assumption that either China would react “irrationally” or that enough people would expect a disproportionate response that covering the lack of it would be news.

That expectation of hotheadedness despite the material difference of circumstances strikes me as fairly well irrational on its own. Notice that the sources of the strange speculative stories are places like AFP and BBC, not Xinhua or Yomiuri. That both governments are settled with this, and no noticeable public outcry has resulted, should be signs that the foreign press is trolling the waters of conflict instead of covering life as it actually is.