Monday, 30 September 2013

Tensions escalate between China and Japan

China's President Xi Jinping said Monday that he will not meet Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit this week, following comments made by Abe at a news conference in New York over a disputed islet. Speaking to reporters on Friday, Abe said that “Japan will not make a concession on our territorial integrity,” but stressed that he did not wish to escalate the issue any further, despite what he called “intrusions by Chinese government vessels in our territorial waters.”
Relations between the second and third-largest economies in the world have been strained during the last year, as Japan has remained defiant of its territorial rights over islands in the East China Sea in the face of an increasingly robust foreign policy by China. Ships and aircraft from both sides have been involved in provocative military exercises in each other's back yards for over a year, since Japan officially bought three of the islands from a private owner in September 2012.
It is believed the eight uninhabited islands, referred to as the Senkaku and Diaoyu Islands by Japan and China respectively, are located near potentially lucrative oil and gas reserves, strategic shipping lanes and in valuable fishing waters. The island's exclusive economic zone would grant the controlling state sovereignty over these resources. Unsurprisingly, Chinese protests over the sovereignty of the islands only began in the mid-1970s, after the oil and gas discoveries were first made.
China's claims to the islands date back many centuries, historically serving as important fishing waters for the Chinese province of Taiwan. In the 19th century, they were ceded, along with Taiwan, to Japan in the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki. They were formally incorporated into Japanese territory, as part of the Ryukyu Islands (modern day Okinawa), that same year and retained that status until after the Second World War.
In 1951, Japan's claim to Taiwan was renounced in the Treaty of San Francisco, and the islands subsequently fell under US trusteeship until they were returned to Japan twenty years later. Despite the question of sovereignty over the islands being raised in both 1951 and 1971, China at no point contested the outcomes of those formal agreements. Beijing has retrospectively argued that they should have been returned, but the Kuomintag leader, Chiang Kai-shek, did not make these feelings heard at the time. Worth noting is that the islands are also claimed by Taiwan.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Nicaragua files new lawsuit against Colombia

Nicaragua has instituted proceedings against Colombia once again over a dispute concerning maritime borders in the oil-rich Caribbean Sea. According to the ICJ, the “dispute concerns the delimitation of the boundaries between, on the one hand, the continental shelf of Nicaragua beyond the 200-nautical-mile limit from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea of Nicaragua is measured, and on the other hand, the continental shelf of Colombia”. Nicaragua now contends that its “continental margin extends more than 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea of Nicaragua is measured.”
The new claim was made following comments from Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos, who rejected the previous ruling by the ICJ in November 2012 following an 11-year case between the two neighbours, saying that a resolution could only be achieved through a bilateral accord. That ruling, entitled “Territorial and Maritime Dispute (Nicaragua v.Colombia),” stipulated that the ownership of the San Andres islands would remain with Colombia, but that the waters east of the 82ndmeridian, surrounding the uninhabited archipelago, would fall within Nicaragua's economic zone, a decision that President Daniel Ortega celebrated at the time. In response, Santos said that Colombia no longer recognised the jurisdiction of the ICJ and subsequently threatened to pull out of the Bogota Treaty of 1948, which recognises the court's rulings.
Colombia's recent remarks come amid news that Nicaragua intends to auction off dozens of offshore oil blocks in the disputed 11,000km2waters in the south western Caribbean Sea, thought not only to be rich in shrimp and lobster, but also oil and gas. Last month Bogota's Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin wrote a letter to Managua in protest at what she regards as the flagrant courting of IOCs by her northern neighbour.
The two sides have been debating the maritime border since 1819, when they became independent from Spain. They settled the border and the sovereignty of various Caribbean islands in 1928, but in 1980 Nicaragua's revolutionary Sandinista government annulled the treaty, claiming that it was signed under pressure from Washington. However the ICJ said in 2007 that the treaty remained valid.
San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina lie 775km off the Colombian coast and 230km off Nicaragua's.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

India's Defence minister A K Antony said yesterday that his country was “strengthening its capabilities on the border” with China, while at the same time seeking an amicable solution to a boundary conflict that has raged for decades. Speaking in Hindon at the induction ceremony of a new aircraft into the Indian Air Force, the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, he stated that the Indian action was in response to Chinese efforts to strengthen their position along the Asian neighbours' 3,500 km border. A joint military exercise is meant to be taking place soon; however a date has not yet been set.
Antony's comments follow a number of confrontations in recent months. In April, Chinese troops crossed into the Ladakh sector of Jammu and Kashmir and pitched tents, only leaving after three weeks and a series of negotiations. Then, on June 17, Chinese troops once again entered Indian territory, specifically the Chumar area of the Ladakh sector, confiscating a surveillance camera which they later returned. In a recent report commissioned by the Prime Minister's Office, it was revealed that Indian troops had been aggressively prevented from patrolling areas of the border region, such as Daulet Beg Oldi and Chumar, by Chinese forces.
India and China relations have been tense and prone to flare-ups since the two fought a border war in 1962. When Britain withdrew as the colonial power and granted independence to India in 1947, it left behind a myopic legacy of clumsily drawn borders between India and its northern neighbours. The area of Kashmir is no exception, and has been the scene of intense conflict between India and Pakistan and, more recently, has seen territorial claims by China with the support of Islamabad, its ally in South Asia. In the last 50 years, New Delhi and Beijing have held 15 rounds of talks in an effort to settle their border dispute, almost to no avail.