U.S. officials are monitoring rising tensions between China and Japan over Japan’s detention of a Chinese fishing boat captain who is accused of ramming his boat into two Japanese patrol boats near the Senkaku islands north of Taiwan and south of Okinawa.
The islands have been Japanese territory for decades and were even recognized as such in China’s Communist Party People’s Daily many years ago.
But since 1970, China — based on growing nationalist sentiment — publicly laid claim to the island chain, which Beijing calls the Diaoyu. Taiwan also claims the islands, further complicating the territorial dispute.
Inside the Ring has obtained a classified Chinese map that is likely to further muddy Beijing’s territorial claims. The 1969 map, produced by the People’s Republic of China map authority and labeled “confidential,” lists the islands as “Senkaku,” the Japanese name, and contains a dividing line south of the islands indicating that they fall within Japanese territory.
The map contradicts the statement on Tuesday by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu, who told reporters: “The Diaoyu Islands have always been Chinese territory since ancient times, and this is the fact that nobody can ever change. China owns indisputable sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands. The Chinese government’s will and determination to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity is firm and unshakable.”
Amid the tensions, the USS George Washington aircraft carrier strike group is located several hundred miles from the area.
The latest dispute began Sept. 7, when a Chinese trawler near the Senkakus was ordered to halt fishing. According to Japanese reports, the trawler then rammed two Japanese patrol boats, triggering a naval chase and the captain’s arrest.
Diplomatic protests began flying as China summoned Japanese diplomats several times to demand the captain’s release, claiming Japan could not enforce its laws on Chinese territory.
China stepped up the protest by canceling a senior official’s visit to Japan, and said plans to resume talks on a disputed undersea natural gas field were called off.
Diplomatic sources said Japan is expected to release the captain on humanitarian grounds after it completes its investigation, ending the immediate dispute but not resolving the issue of the uninhabited islands.
The Senkaku dispute provides another example for growing U.S. concerns over China’s aggressiveness and efforts to seek control over others’ territory and international waters.
In July, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton challenged China over its claims to wide areas of the South China Sea. She said “the United States has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons and respect for international law in the South China Sea.” U.S. officials said the comment is part of a broader effort to push back against growing Chinese hegemony in Southeast and Northeast Asia.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in an e-mail that “there is some increased tension” between the two Asian giants over the islands dispute.
“But we believe this can be resolved by Japan and China,” he said. “We have not been asked to intercede in any way at this point.”
China blocks U.S. visit
China’s government this week blocked the visit to Beijing by Robert Einhorn, special State Department adviser on nonproliferation and arms control, who had planned to discuss China’s support for sanctions on Iran and North Korea.
Mr. Einhorn was to be part of an Obama administration interagency team to “discuss sanctions implementation with regard to both North Korea and Iran,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.
“The Chinese asked for a delay due to lack of availability of key interlocutors. We are working with them to reschedule,” he said.
A State Department official said later that the U.S. delegation will ask China to carry out a “conscientious implementation” of U.N. Security Council resolutions on Iran and North Korea.
China has opposed sanctions in principle, favoring instead what Beijing calls “negotiations and diplomacy.”
U.S. officials are uncertain what is behind the recent cancellation of Mr. Einhorn’s visit but are concerned it is a sign that Beijing is having second thoughts about supporting U.S.-led diplomatic efforts for international pressure against the two states.
The United States imposed new sanctions against North Korea in August, targeting intelligence units and those trafficking in luxury goods.
The United Nations in June imposed its fourth round of sanctions against Iran to punish Tehran for its nuclear program. The U.N. resolution sought to bolster existing sanctions aimed at the economic, high-technology and military sectors. It calls for U.N. member states to chase Iranian ships suspected of carrying banned goods and also tries to increase pressure on banks and insurance firms to cut ties with Iran.
U.N. sanctions were imposed on North Korea in 2009 after the North’s second underground nuclear test. Those sanctions included the inspection of North Korean ships, a wider ban on arms sales and other financial measures.
U.S. officials said China has failed to enforce sanctions fully on either country, although some steps were taken.
China is North Korea’s main trading partner in fuel oil, and both countries’ Communist parties and militaries maintain close relations.
China’s opposition to Iran sanctions is based on extensive Chinese trade and economic dealings with Iran, specifically purchases of Iranian oil.
Chinese President Hu Jintao told President Obama in April that China would support sanctions on Iran.
The fact that the Army inspector general, and now the Pentagon IG, have been investigating the Rolling Stone profile of Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, over which he resigned, raises an interesting question: Why did the Pentagon certify to Congress that Gen. McChrystal served satisfactorily in his last rank, allowing him to retire a four-star officer, if an investigation was open?
But now, Inside the Ring has learned that Gen. McChrystal has nothing to worry about.
“We can state emphatically that Gen. McChrystal is not under investigation,” IG spokesman Gary Comerford tells special correspondent Rowan Scarborough. “He is retired and is not a person of interest. The investigation has not identified any subjects. It is simply to inquire into the facts and circumstances of the article.”
Mr. Comerford said the IG is reviewing whether “any personnel made any inappropriate comments” that appeared in the Rolling Stone article, which led to Gen. McChrystal’s resignation as the top commander in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon IG office issued a statement last week that said, in part: “The DoD IG has assumed responsibility for the investigation into facts and circumstances surrounding comments allegedly made by the staff of the Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan, as reported in the Rolling Stone article, ‘The Runaway General.’
“After reviewing the Army report, the DoD IG determined that additional investigative work was indicated to fully address matters at issue and that such work would entail contact with evidentiary sources outside of Army IG jurisdiction.
“The DoD IG work has begun. It is too early to estimate a completion date.”
• Contact Bill Gertz at firstname.lastname@example.org.