Australia and Japan enhance Defense Ties after Japan´s Nationalization of Disputed Diaoyu Islands.
Christof Lehmann (nsnbc). A high level Japanese delegation, including Japanese Prime Ministaer Satosho Morimoto and Foreign Affairs Minister Koichiro Genba is currently visiting Australia. On the agenda are, among other, discussions with Australia´s Defense Minister Stephen Smith about the enhancement of Australian – Japanese defense ties. The discussions are taking place shortly after Japan illegally nationalized the disputed Diaoyu Dao or Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Japan and China, as well as Taiwan continue their diplomatic standoff. The Japanese – Australian defense talks are part of US moves toward the strategic encirclement of China in the Asia – Pacific region.
Earlier in 2012 Japan praised Australia for its decision to host US Marines in Australian military bases. Japan is the nation that hosts most US troops in the region. Both the hosting of US Marines in Australia and the planned enhancement of strategic defense ties between Japan and Australia have been met by considerable critique among Australian policy makers as well as among peace movements.
Concerns are also being raised by Australian commerce, fearing that the move will have a negative impact on bilateral relations as well as on the export of minerals such as iron ore coal and other commodities to China.
Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith is planning a visit to Japan during the first quarter of 2013 to continue the discussions and to discuss the Australian purchase of Japanese defense technology. Earlier in 2012 the Japanese parliament removed a moratorium which prohibited the export of military technology.
The US-backed, Australian-Japanese moves toward increased military cooperation are likely to aggravate the conflict about the disputed Diaoyu Dao or Senkaku Islands. The Islands have appeared on Chinese maps since the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century. The Chinese government has issued a comprehensive white paper on the Diaoyu Dao earlier in 2012, leaving little doubt that the Chinese claim to the disputed Islands is legitimate and in accordance to international law.
Japanese claims to sovereignty are based on the San Francisco Treaty which China never ratified and which according to China and experts in international law is illegitimate and invalid. Earlier in 2012 Japan “nationalized” the Islands which according to Japan were previously owned by a private individual. The Japanese decision to nationalize the islands however, have even further undermined Japanese legal position.
The nationalization of the Islands was synchronized with a visit of US Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, the deployment of additional US Missiles in Japan, US – Philippine challenges to Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea, increased US naval presence in China and a general pivoting of US/NATO Hegemony in the Asia Pacific region.