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Published On: Thu, Apr 20th, 2017

US – Japanese Defense Treaty also covers disputed Diaoyu / Senkaku Islands: Pence

Christof Lehmann (nsnbc) : The defense treaty between the United States and Japan also covers the disputed Senkaku Islands said U.S. Vice President Mike Pence Wednesday while visiting Japan during his current Asia trip.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. Making America great again with really dumb diplomacy?

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. Making America great again with really dumb diplomacy?

Pence is on an Asia trip focusing among others on North Korea (DPRK) and attempts to muster regional, including Chinese, South Korean (RPK) Taiwanese, and Japanese support for the United States alleged end to its policy of “strategic patience” with North Korea.

On Wednesday Pence was visiting the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, at present docked in Japan. Pence told an audience which included more than 2,000 American and Japanese military staff that Washington would be “unwavering in its alliances and unyielding in its resolve.”

The statement about the mutual defense treaty covering all territory administered by Japan was seen by some as a veiled warning in the direction of China, which has been pursuing an aggressive policy of underlining its claims to numerous islands, most of them in the South China Sea. Pence said the Trump Administration would move more of its most advanced military assets into the Asia-Pacific region.

However, pence poked into a potential hornets nest when he, being in Japan, called the Islands by their Japanese name, the Senkaku Islands. The People’s Republic of China and Taiwan also claim sovereignty over the islands. Mainland Chinese designate them as the Diayu Dao while Tainewse designate them as Diaoyutai.

The uninhabited islands are currently administered by Japan, even though China and Taiwan do not recognize the legality of this administration.  The islands, or rather the waters around them are believed to hold yet untapped gas and oil reserves. The waters around the islands halve for centuries been fishing grounds for fishermen from Japan, mainland China, Taiwan, and even Russia and Korea.

Pence’s statement and use of the Japanese name may have earned him sympathies in Tokyo (and in Washington). The U.S. policy to support Japan’s territorial claims has long been known – the novelty is merely Pence’s bad timing considering that he also wants China’s and Taiwan’s cooperation with regard to North Korea.

In February 2017 Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen’s office briefed the offices of Japan’s President Abe and U.S. President Trump on the fact that Taiwan considers the “Diaoyutai” as sovereign Taiwanese territory.

China’s initial response to Japan’s announcement of its plans to purchase the islands from a private owner in 2013 was protest. After Japan bought the islands and nationalized them the Chinese government published a comprehensive white paper, titled “Diaoyu Dao, An Inhernt Territory Of China” . China argues, among others, that the Diaoyu Dao have been Chinese territory, and appeared on Chinese maps as Chinese territory since the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644).

On a map published in Japan, between 1783 and 1785, marking the boundary of the Ryukyu Kingdom, the Diaoyu Dao were shown as belonging to China. Japan never questioned China’s sovereignty over the islands before the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-1895, which marked the emergence of Japan as a major regional and world power.

In April 1895, the government of China’s Qing Dynasty was forced to sign the Treaty of Shimonoseki, under which China ceded the whole island of Taiwan and its surrounding islands including the Penghu Islands to Japan. Territorial gains through wars of aggression are unlawful under international law.

During the Second World War, Japan expanded the territories it claimed to also include the Philippines in the South, parts of China in the West, parts Korea in the South West, causing immense human catastrophes and suffering throughout the region. Following Japan’s capitulation after the United States committed the war crimes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan was occupied by the United States to later become an ally.

In 1951 Japan and the USA, arguably, illegally signed the San Francisco Treaty without the presence of China, which was required, not least due to the fact that China had territorial claims, and due to the fact that China was one of the victor countries of the Second World War.

Article two of the San Francisco Treaty states that Japan surrenders its claim over Taiwan and the Penghu Islands. Article three however, assigned the Senkaku (a.k.a. Diaoyu Dao or Diaoyutai), which Japan had annexed from China, as well as a number of other islands to the Ryukuyu zone, to Japan, which was under U.S. American control.

The annexation of the Diaoyu Dao and other formerly Chinese islands by the USA / Japan prompted the immediate and strongest protest by the then Chinese Premier, Zhou Enlai. Enlai stressed, that the Chinese government would never recognize the San Francisco Treaty.

China has not changed its position since, and is unlikely to change its position in the future, and neither is Taiwan. If Pence wanted to use his “diplomatic talents” to gain regional support for U.S. policy, then mentioning the “Senkaku” islands was “a really great idea”.

CH/L – nsnbc 20.04.2017

About the Author

- Dr. Christof Lehmann is the founder and editor of nsnbc. He is a psychologist and former independent political consultant on conflict, conflict resolution and a wide range of other political issues. In March 2013 he established nsnbc as a daily, independent, international on-line newspaper. He can be contacted at nsnbc international at

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