U.S. urged Japan to consult with China before 2012 Senkakus purchase


The United States urged Japan to consult with China before its provocative Senkaku Islands purchase in 2012, a declassified email forwarded to then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has revealed.

In the email, dated Sept. 3, 2012 — roughly a week before the Japanese government bought three islets in the chain from their private Japanese owner — then-U.S. Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell said he had urged Japan via Kenichiro Sasae, Japan’s vice foreign minister at the time, to “consult and advise Beijing on their plans.”

Campbell said he had requested Japan’s prior consultation with China when he met with Sasae on Aug. 7, 2012, in Tokyo. At that time, the Japanese government had “just concluded a round of deliberations and apparently their PRC (People’s Republic of China) counterparts were irate,” he said in the email.

“Sasae however believes that China actually understands the necessity of these actions and will accept them. (I’m not so sure.),” Campbell said in the message sent to senior State Department officials.

The Japanese government, which administers the Senkakus, purchased three of the five main islets on Sept. 11, 2012, effectively nationalizing the uninhabited chain, which lies in the East China Sea. The action stoked widespread anger in China and sparked a wave of anti-Japanese protests across the nation.

The email, entitled “Sasae call,” was written shortly after the vice foreign minister conveyed to Washington over the phone that the central government had intended to nationalize the Senkakus. It was declassified Friday by the State Department in connection with Clinton’s risky use of a private email server during her recent stint as America’s top diplomat. Republicans are focusing on the unfolding security issue to criticize Clinton’s presidential bid.

In the message, Campbell also said that although the government and the owner of the islands had agreed on a price, then-Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, a nationalist who kicked off the whole issue by raising funds for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s bid for the uninhabited islands, was “unlikely to consent” to the central government’s interference.

  • Buck

    I seriously don’t get the issue here. Before the islands were “bought / nationalized”, they were in the private ownership of a Japanese person. During that period of private ownership the islands were still part of Japan. Now its public land as opposed to private. What does it matter? The nationality of the islands, if you will, is still the same.

    • KenjiAd

      What happened is, Noda made a diplomacy beginner’s mistake of believing that reasoning will prevail.

      It may, but only when the other party trusts you. Noda way, way underestimated how distrustful China is of whatever the Japanese government says.

      Noda probably explained to China that nationalizing islands would be the best way to prevent a right-wing nut like Ishihara from getting hold of the islands.

      Deeply distrustful of Japanese government, perhaps even paranoid, Chinese government had none of that. They probably thought that was an excuse for changing the long-established status quo – “shelving” the dispute indefinitely, to practically declaring the islands were Japan’s.

      On top of that, there is an issue of political dynamics of CCP. Since a large part of CCP’s legitimacy comes from standing up against countries like Japan and America, the party is not willing to swallow the humiliation of Japan nationalizing the islands. That’s where “provocation” comes in. From the party’s point of view, that would be a defeat to them.

  • Liars N. Fools

    Ishihara that sly right wing fox. He understood that we were perfectly happy with the status quo of conflicting but sleeping sovereignty claims, with the Chinese not pressing then. But Ishihara understood that if Tokyo could buy the island, it would force Japan to nationalize the island which would then force China to vocally assert its claim.

    • Guoxi Zeng

      Ichihara, we should recall, called for Japan to say “no” to America. The best way to do that was to set up a situation where America has to commit to defending an insignificant island if attacked and the Japanese government invokes the mutual security treaty.

  • LaughingBuddha

    Ishihara is a Chinese agent! that’s the only possible explanation.

  • AlfredvonTirpitz

    No no no no… the Senkaku Islands purchase was NOT “provocative” in itself. Legally speaking, the islands just changed from one Japanese owner to another. Nothing changed. It was the Chinese government that purposely used this as a pretext to create a “crisis” so China can change the status quo.

    They could have just issued a formal statement in the sense of “The Chinese government still considers Daoyu part of China” and maybe summon the Japanese ambassador or so, but they chose to get hysterical, send their navy to the islands, and organise protests.

    • KenjiAd

      … and organise protests.

      I know that’s what some western pundits say, but it’s unthinkable for the Chinese government to “organize” anti-Japan protests.

      First of all, you don’t need to organize any protests in China. As someone living in China, I can tell you that protests are very frequent here.

      It’s not a western-style street demonstration. It’s more like a riot. Just a week ago, I couldn’t get into a business park, where one of our cafeteria business is located, because a large number of village people set up blockage at the gate. No one could get in, even mailman. They were angry because a village guy died at the construction site inside the business park.

      Anti-Japan protests/riots can occur spontaneously without the government organizing it. I’m pretty sure that the government did the opposite, trying to contain it.

      They tried to contain it, not because they wanted to be nice to Japan, but because they were probably afraid that this sort of riot could easily turn again themselves.

      In our city, it was so well-contained that I saw only a few small-scale demonstrations.

    • Buck

      Yes! This was what I was trying to get at with my comment. The land that was already part of Japan changed from private ownership to public. I don`t think “nationalizing” is really appropriate. The term is technically
      correct but only inflames the situation.