Charles Tannock, a member of the European Parliament, has exclaimed that the “East China Sea Peace Initiative is a courageous and timely proposal that will hopefully bring about a permanent reduction of tension in the region.”
Although Washington does not take a position on the question of the ultimate sovereignty of these islands, a US official warned recently that “the Senkakus would fall within the scope of Article 5 of the 1960 US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security.”
This means the US has a large stake in a peaceful resolution of this dispute and should work energetically to prevent an escalation of the controversy. According to US estimates, the seabed around the disputed island group may hold as much as 100 billion barrels of oil. But there is much more than oil fueling the flames of this disagreement. For many in East Asia, Tokyo’s possession of these islands is a potent reminder of Japanese imperialism. It is for these reasons that this problem will not go away and requires thoughtful remediation. Taiwan’s proposal offers such a solution. Now that the US presidential election is over, it is time for Washington to stop sitting on the sidelines and energetically support the “East China Sea Peace Initiative.” To do otherwise could invite disaster.
Dennis Hickey is the James F. Morris Endowed Professor of Political Science and director of the Graduate Program in Global Studies at Missouri State University.