Japan sought Taiwan’s silence on Senkakus when U.N. seat row flared in ’71


Tokyo in 1971 asked Taipei to refrain from pressing its claim to the Senkaku Islands in return for backing Taiwan’s efforts to keep its seat at the United Nations, according to Japanese diplomatic records declassified on Thursday.

Taiwan responded that it would attempt to “cool down” issues related to the islands, the documents show. The islets in the East China Sea are administered by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan, which call them Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai, respectively.

Former Foreign Minister Kiichi Aichi made the request at a meeting in Tokyo with Taiwan’s ambassador to the United States when Taipei was on the verge of losing its U.N. seat.

The issue of China’s representation had drawn attention at the world body, with the Taiwan-based Republic of China and the communist-led People’s Republic of China fighting for the seat to become the sole legitimate government of all of China.

At the meeting, Aichi said Japan “would like to cooperate closely” with Taiwan on its drive to keep its seat.

Aichi was quoted as saying he “would appreciate it if (Taiwan) were quiet about the Senkaku Islands, in the sense that being so would not provoke people in Japan,” the records show.

The Taiwanese ambassador to Washington thanked Japan for its offer and said Taipei “would like to make efforts to ‘cool down’ this (Senkaku) issue.”

Japan’s agreement, along with the U.S., to help Taiwan keep its seat at the U.N. was aimed at countering the influence of the communist regime in Beijing. But an increase in the number of countries establishing diplomatic relations with China led the U.N. General Assembly in October 1971 to adopt a resolution granting a seat to Beijing, resulting in Taipei’s withdrawal from the world body.

China and Taiwan only began making assertions about the Senkaku Islands in the 1970s, after a survey conducted by a U.N. agency in the autumn of 1968 signaled the possibility that petroleum resources might exist in the East China Sea.

  • Whirled Peas

    Lest this article be wrongly interpreted as Japan trying to muzzle Taiwan over the Senkakus let me say that the ROC government itself was reluctant at first to make a claim on the Senkakus because the claim was weak. Also, all the official ROC and CHN maps at the time showed the Senkakus as being part of Japan! It is revealing that the Taiwanese ambassador to Washington said “. . .Taipei would like to make efforts to ‘cool down’ this (Senkaku) issue.” I think initially the ROC governmentat a loss as how to respond to the Tiaoyutai activists.

    Let me say that the Tiaoyutai movement in the early 1970’s was a case of the tail wagging the dog. That is to say again, the ROC government was pressured into publicly making the claim in 1971 by a group of over-zealous student-intellectuals (mainly overseas Chinese studying abroad) who had organized a “united front movement” of students, business people, fishermen, and other professionals who agree to claim that the Senkakus belonged to Taiwan — this was shortly after the 1968 discovery of OIL in the Senkaku waters by a United Nations survey.

    Its okay for the tail to wag the dog if the tail is a correct and upright tail. Unfortunately, the students jumped the gun and initiated the Tiaoyutai movement before they had even studied the history of the Senkakus.. The students ranted that Japan had no right to send vessels to the Senkaku waters to verify that there was OIL. They railed that Japan was a greedy expansion because it was trying to claim the islands only now that OIL had been discovered! The students were obviously seriously muddled. When the students learned to their chagrin that Japan had actually annexed the islands back in 1895 uh oh, they had to eat crow or else quickly come up with a narrative to explain why the islands belonged to Taiwan and/or China. And ever since 1971/1972 the pro-Diaoyu/Tiaoyu folks have been inventing argument after argument. If one narrative is shot down, another one is invented. There must be a place in Dante’s Hell for those who are doomed to hammer square pegs into round holes, in perpetuity.