Solve Senkaku Islands Issue through Diplomatic Negotiations

Shii Kazuo
Executive Committee Chair
Japanese Communist Party
September 20, 2012

Serious tension and confrontation have been developing between Japan and China over the Senkaku islands (called "Diaoyu islands" in China). The Japanese Communist Party hereby expresses its current view and proposal on how this issue should be solved.


At the outset, it is unacceptable to use violent actions to express criticism against Japan for whatever reasons. One must uphold an attitude of trying to solve any problems calmly and based on reason. The JCP urges the government of China to promote self-restraint by the Chinese public and to take all possible measures to ensure the safety of Japanese residents, companies, and diplomatic missions in China.

Various arguments in support of further forceful measures and possible military responses will not benefit either nation and may dangerously close the avenues to seek a rational solution to the problem. Both Japan and China are required to exercise great self-restraint.


The JCP has already expressed its view that Japan's possession of the Senkaku Islands is legitimate based on history and international law. A JCP statement on the Senkaku Islands question issued on October 4, 2010 made the following points:

The JCP statement emphasized that in order to resolve the dispute over the Senkaku Islands, it is important for the Japanese government to clearly demonstrate to the international community as well as the Chinese government the legitimacy of Japan's sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands based on history and international law as clearly and rationally as possible.


In this regard, the attitude of successive Japanese governments contains serious problems.

All they have been repeating is the rigid position that there are no territorial disputes over the Senkakus, thus continually avoiding making the necessary efforts to assert legitimacy of Japan's sovereignty over those islands though diplomatic negotiations as rationally as possible.

Historically, the Japanese government took two problematic approaches. 

First, it put the territorial question related to the Senkakus in "temporary suspension" when diplomatic relations between Japan and China were normalized in 1972 as well as when the Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty was concluded in 1978.

During the negotiations over the Japan-China normalization, the then Japanese Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei raised the issue by asking, "What do you think about the Senkaku Islands?" and the then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai answered, "It is not good to talk about it now." This constituted a virtual agreement between both sides to put the issue in a state of "temporary suspension."

Just before the Peace and Friendship Treaty was signed between two countries in 1978, Deng Xiaoping, the then Chinese vice premier, said to the then Japanese Foreign Minister Sonoda Sunao, "Let us leave it there," and Sonoda responded, "You do not need to say more." Again, there was a tacit understanding between both sides to put the issue on hold.

The Japanese government should have made a clear case regarding the legitimacy of Japan's sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands to the Chinese side as rationally as possible when diplomatic relations were normalized or when the peace treaty was concluded. Putting the issue on hold was a meek attitude to adopt in diplomatic negotiations.

At the same time, putting the Senkaku Islands issue in "temporary suspension" meant nothing other than Japan admitted to the existence of a territorial dispute in the negotiations with China.


Second, nevertheless, the Japanese government has subsequently continued to state that "there exists no issue of territorial sovereignty to be resolved concerning the Senkaku Islands." This attitude has created the following problems:

It is an undeniable fact that there is a dispute over the Senkaku Islands between Japan and China. This was admitted to in effect by the Japanese side during negotiations before normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China in 1972 and the signing of the Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty in 1978. Despite that, the Japanese government has been avoiding any diplomatic negotiations over the issue, saying "there are no territorial disputes," thus taking a self-defeating attitude that would close off avenues to a diplomatic solution.

In spite of an intension to take a strong position by denying the existence of territorial disputes itself, this attitude conversely weakens Japan's position by precluding opportunities to make a case for Japan or to refute the Chinese arguments.


The Japanese government should correct its denial of the existence of a territorial dispute, admit squarely to its existence, and commit itself to solving the issue through diplomatic negotiations calmly and based on reason.

Settlement of territorial disputes requires not only government-to-government negotiations but also approaches that are persuasive to the general public of the relevant country. What is now necessary is a calm and persuasive diplomatic effort to explain to the Chinese people who believe that these islands were taken by "aggression by Japanese militarism" the historical facts and the international principles regarding this issue, combined with serious reflection over Japan's past wars of aggression.

The Central Committee of the Japanese Communist Party
4-26-7 Sendagaya,Shibuya-ku,Tokyo 151-8586