China-Japan Relations in Gridlock

  • Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013
  • The CSIS Freeman Chair in China Studies organized a roundtable in its Washington DC office on China-Japan relations. The roundtable featured Linda Jakobson, Director of the East Asia program at Lowy Institute of International Policy and was moderated by Bonnie Glaser, Senior Advisor for Asia, Freeman Chair in China Studies. Participants included experts from organizations such as the United States Institute of Peace, Congressional Research Service, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the East West Center, the Center for a New American Security, and CSIS, who came together to discuss the drivers of recent tensions between China and Japan, and possible solutions going forward.  Ms. Jakobson opened the session by discussing her insights from three workshops she conducted on Northeast Asian island disputes in Seoul, Beijing, and Tokyo in recent months.

    Roundtable participants discussed the events surrounding the Japanese decision to purchase three of the five disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in September 2012 and the issue of Sino-Japanese communication. They then focused on potential ways to resolve the crisis.  It was generally agreed that the diplomatic standoff is likely to persist for some time.  Most participants believed that China is unlikely to accept a return to the status quo ante since it has gained by contesting Japan’s administrative control over the islands.  Beijing is also willing to tolerate the current situation and therefore is not likely to make the first move to end the current impasse. The Xi administration continues to demand that Japan acknowledge that a territorial dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands exists. One of the solutions proposed was a quiet deal in which Japan acknowledges the dispute, and China in turn takes measures to de-escalate tensions including reducing its patrols within the 12 nautical mile territorial waters around the islands, compelling its fishermen to disengage from the area, and agreeing to set aside the sovereignty dispute and restore normal diplomatic relations . The role the United States should play in the dispute was also discussed, with some participants arguing in favor of greater US involvement, though short of mediation, and other participants opposed to a US attempt to broker a deal.  The fact that Sino-Japanese trade relations have recovered and business and other people-to people exchanges are taking place were widely viewed as positive, even though Chinese officials have essentially halted bilateral diplomatic exchanges. 


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