(continue from issue#236)
Liuqiu was an independent Kingdom maintaining a peaceful relationship with China as a suzerain State during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Liuqiu was seized by Japan in 1879. During WW II, the U.S. navy recovered Liuqiu from Japan and Liuqiu was a major base in the Asia theater supporting US military’s island-hopping strategy against Japan with the goal of reaching Japan’s four main islands. Even though Liuqiu was ruled by Japan by several decades, the Liuqiuans maintained its culture despite of Japan’s ‘Japanization’ effort which was forced upon on all Japanese occupied territories including Taiwan. Sadly during WW II, more than one hundred thousand Liuqiuans were killed by the Japanese Imperial Army and some by the U.S. military, as spies for the other side. After the war, the U.N. gave the U.S. the administrative authority over Liuqiu and the Diaoyu Islands. The U.S. regarded Liuqiu as a strategic location for her global anti-communist foreign policy stopping the expansion of the communist Soviet Union and its encroaching over China and Japan. Liuqiu then became a stepping stone for the U.S. into Asia, as it had been in WW II and later during the Korean War.
The Liuqiu military bases were used for testing and storage of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as well as air force and naval bases for equipments and planes. The US governance of Liuqiu Islands was riddled with social problems caused by the presence of large US military. Liuqiuans became resentful and hostile towards the US military and intolerant to the frequent crimes committed by them in Liuqiu. The U.S. contemplated (1969) and formerly returned (1972) the Liuqiu Islands to Japan to govern along with the administrative rights of the Diaoyu Islands, without a justified procedure involving Liuqiuans or China or the U.N. Liuqiuans expected that Japan would help Liuqiu’s economy and the US military bases would diminish and disappear. As time went by, neither expectation was realized. Japan, for purpose of strengthening her Mutual Defense Treaty with the U.S., allowed the U.S. to maintain her large military presence in Liuqiu. The livelihood of Liuqiuans were not improved. When the U.S. wished to move and expand her military base to Henoko, Liuqiu (Okinawa, Camp Schwab), strong opposition from local Liuqiuans took place. The elected governor of Okinawa, Takeshi Onaga, wanted to close down the US military bases. Liuqiuans view the bases as a threat to their security rather than as a guaranty for peace. Today, the democratic elections in Liuqiu indicate a strong sentiment for expelling the U.S. military bases, seeking independence and even desiring a friendly relation with China like one and half century ago. Again, the U.S. is in a dilemma: Continuing her unwelcomed presence in Liuqiu for the sake of military purposes (for Japan’s defense?) with outdated political goal (Is China a Soviet style communist country threatening the U.S.?) or right the wrong of the past - violating Liuqiuans’ rights for self-determination. Will the U.S. be willing to get out of this dilemma for international justice?
The creation of the above three dilemmas is largely the making of the U.S. foreign policy. Without understanding or considering the history, the U.S. in 1972 unilaterally without even the U.N.’s approval process, offered the administrative rights of Liuqiu Islands and Diaoyu Islands to Japan. It appeared like the U.S. was tossing a hot potato to Japan so the U.S. would not have to deal with the anti-US protests for expelling military bases and seeking independence and social justice. However, this decision only pleased Japan (History showed that Japan had always wanted to occupy Liuqiu as its territory) but angered the Liuqiu people (whose rights was ignored), provoked China (ignoring Japan’s pirate like foreign policy and aggressive behavior in the past history and deliberately strengthening Japan worry China) and embarrassed Taiwan (whose fishing rights in the East China Sea were compromised as the U.S. gave the administrative right of the Diaoyu Islands to Japan). One can vividly recall the protests over the Diaoyu Islands issue happening worldwide from 1970’s onward, in Taiwan, Hong Kong and major cities in the U.S. and Europe, demanding the recognition of the historical evidence that the Diaoyu Islands are a part of Taiwan, China. Although, the U.S. stated a position of neutrality on the sovereignty issue of the Diaoyu Islands for quieting down the protests; however, that was a cop-out move getting more blames. China and Japan diplomatically tabled the dispute but in 2012 Japan reneged that promise by orchestrating a property buy back of three small Diaoyu Islands sold illegally to private citizens in 1970’s, a devious scheme to claim ownership. Thus, the Diaoyu Islands issue was activated again by Japan’s ambition of expansion and return to its past imperial ‘glory’. However, the Diaoyu Islands is one issue both PRC and ROC (except a small group of pro-Japan Japanese descendents in Taiwan) are on the same page. It seems that the U.S. cannot use neutrality to shield herself from facing historical evidence, international justice and potential military confrontation. The U.S. needs to honestly correct the mistakes made and promote a rational solution.
Today, the Diaoyu Islands became a hot spot in the East China Sea because China and Japan had increased their military patrol of the area with chances of breaking into war (Recalling history: The Imperial Japanese Army nearly always were the one triggering an incidence for excuse to initiate a premeditated attack, for example, Mukden incidence (9-18-1931), Marco Polo Bridge incidence (7-7-1937), …, Pearl Harbor attack (12-7-1941)). The U.S. faces a dilemma to risk engaging in a war for some uninhabitable rocks for the sake of endorsing Japan’s aggression. The legitimate position of Liuqiu Islands is another hot issue in East Asia. The Liuqiuans deserve to have their say in governance. The U.S. and Japan should not use force to control the ultimate outcome regarding the support of the US military bases in Liuqiu . The indefinite delay of the reunification of Taiwan with Mainland is brewing another trouble in Asia Pacific. China is rightly running out of patience in expecting a peaceful reunification. The U.S. and Japan have no justification to interfere but yet tied to the small anti-China activities in Taiwan.
The current US awkward positions regarding these dilemmas all hinge on the fact that the U.S. is aligning with an aggressive Japan (eager to revise its Pacifist Constitution and strengthening more its military power) against a hypothetic enemy, China. Therefore, the U.S. and Japan established a Mutual Defense Treaty, under which Japan was eagerly building her military on the pretense of self-defense and defending the U.S. In fact, such treaty’s initial intention is for the U.S. to help defend Japan from the encroaching communism. No American can believe that such treaty is necessary today since Japan has developed the strongest Navy in Asia once again. China with her successful economic reform and her independence from Russia is the least belligerent or threatening nation in Asia compared to Russia and Japan. Perhaps, Americans should entertain an alternate scenario: What if the U.S. is wrong to assume the hypothetic enemy to be China. A U.S. - China Mutual Defense Treaty may be more beneficial to the security of the U.S. and world peace, if the enemy is another aggressive nation or international terrorism. When Japan’s economy was the envy of the world, Liuqiu citizens might have had false hope that they would be benefitted from Japan’s economy, but it did not happen. Now that China has overtaken Japan to become a much larger economy with successful policies to trade with the whole world, not surprisingly some Liuqiu citizens, intellectuals especially, will reminisce the peaceful and prosperous days when Liuqiu was a suzerain State of China. Similarly, the people in Taiwan will recognize the benefit of reuniting with motherland China.
The above historical account and analysis should lead Americans to think outside of the box to revise the US foreign policy, especially her China policy to solve the three dilemmas with rational solutions.
Ifay Chang. Ph.D. Producer/Host, Community Education - Scrammble Game Show, Weekly TV Columnist, www.us-chinaforum.org . Trustee, Somers Central School District.