East Asia's Contentious Island Disputes: A U.S. Policy Perspective
Donald Keyser- Retired State Department Senior Foreign Service Officer and the 2008-09 Pantech Fellow, Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University
RSVP Required by 5PM on OCT 26
Certain East Asian territorial disputes have simmered, unresolved, since the arrangements concluding the Second World War: Japan, China, and Taiwan contest sovereignty over the Senkaku/Diaoyu(tai) islands and their surrounding waters; South Korea and Japan both assert a claim to Dokto/Takeshima island (also called Liancourt Rocks); Japan and Russia have not yet signed a formal peace treaty ending the war, mainly because of their continuing dispute regarding sovereignty over the Northern Territories/southern Kuriles; and China, Taiwan and Vietnam plus three other nations assert sovereignty over one or more of the Spratly Island group in the South China Sea. These contending claims arise -- and generate heat -- from conflicting historical memories, national identities, nationalistic impulses, regional power rivalries, and potentially rich economic benefits. China's rising military power and concomitantly more assertive foreign policy posture have added to that volatile mix. The United States was, in a sense, "present at the creation" of the specific postwar arrangements -- that failed adequately to resolve historical issues and left the contested East China Sea islands in a legally uncertain status. The Obama administration's announced "pivot" or "rebalancing" toward Asia was accompanied by public affirmations of enduring U.S. policy interests in Asia and by a call for China to settle its South China Sea disputes through multilateral negotiations. So the U.S. is involved to a greater or lesser degree in each of the contemporary East Asian territorial disputes. Keyser will discuss the U.S. policymaker's perspective on these territorial conflicts including whether the U.S. government can and should play an active role in facilitating resolutions.