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Monday, January 28, 2013

Senkaku (Diaoyu/Diaoyutai) Islands Dispute: U.S. Treaty Obligations

Mark E. Manyin
Specialist in Asian Affairs

Since the mid-1990s, tensions have spiked periodically among Japan, China, and Taiwan over the disputed Senkaku (Diaoyu/Diaoyutai) islets in the East China Sea. These flare-ups run the risk of involving the United States in an armed conflict in the region. Japan administers the eight small, uninhabited islets, which some geologists believe sit near significant oil and natural gas deposits. China and Taiwan both contest Japanese claims of sovereignty over the islets.

U.S. administrations going back at least to the Nixon Administration have stated that the United States takes no position on the territorial disputes. However, it also has been U.S. policy since 1972 that the 1960 U.S.-Japan Security Treaty covers the islets, because Article 5 of the treaty stipulates that the United States is bound to protect “the territories under the Administration of Japan” and Japan administers the Senkakus (Diaoyu Islands). Under the treaty, the United States guarantees Japan’s security in return for the right to station U.S. troops—which currently number around 50,000—in dozens of bases throughout the Japanese archipelago. Although it is commonly understood that Japan will assume the primary responsibility for the defense of the treaty area, in the event of a significant armed conflict with either China or Taiwan, most Japanese would likely expect that the United States would honor its treaty obligations.

Each time tensions over the islets have flared, questions have arisen concerning the U.S. legal relationship to the islets. This report will focus on that issue, which has four elements:

  1. U.S. administration of the Senkakus (Diaoyu Islands) from 1953 to 1971; 
  2. the application to the Senkakus (Diaoyu Islands) of the 1971 “Treaty Between Japan and the United States of America Concerning the Ryukyu Islands and the Daito Islands”—commonly known as the Okinawa Reversion Treaty, approved by the Senate in 1971 and entered into force the following year (the Daito Islands lie to the east of Okinawa); 
  3. the U.S. view on the claims of the disputants; and 
  4. the relationship of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty to the islets. 
Members of Congress periodically have been involved or expressed interest in the Senkaku (Diaoyu) dispute over the decades, most prominently when the issue of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty’s application arose during the Senate’s deliberations over the Okinawa Reversion Treaty. In 2012, Congressional committees explored the topic in hearings and inserted in the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310) a resolution stating, among other items, that “the unilateral action of a third party will not affect the United States’ acknowledgment of the administration of Japan over the Senkaku Islands.” This language was a reaction to China’s increase in patrols around the Senkakus since the fall of 2012, moves that appear to many to be an attempt to exploit the U.S. distinction between sovereignty and administrative control by demonstrating that Beijing has a degree of administrative control over the islets.

Date of Report: January 10, 2013
Number of Pages:
Order Number: R42761

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

U.S.-Taiwan Relationship: Overview of Policy Issues

Shirley A. Kan
Specialist in Asian Security Affairs

Wayne M. Morrison
Specialist in Asian Trade and Finance

The purpose and scope of this CRS report is to provide a succinct overview with analysis of the issues in the U.S.-Taiwan relationship. This report will be updated as warranted. Taiwan formally calls itself the sovereign Republic of China (ROC), tracing its political lineage to the ROC set up after the revolution in 1911 in China. The ROC government retreated to Taipei in 1949. The United States recognized the ROC until the end of 1978 and has maintained a non-diplomatic relationship with Taiwan after recognition of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing in 1979. The State Department claims an “unofficial” U.S. relationship with Taiwan, despite official contacts that include arms sales. The Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1979, P.L. 96-8, has governed policy in the absence of a diplomatic relationship or a defense treaty. Other key statements that guide policy are the three U.S.-PRC Joint Communiqu├ęs of 1972, 1979, and 1982; as well as the “Six Assurances” of 1982. (See also CRS Report RL30341, China/Taiwan: Evolution of the “One China” Policy—Key Statements from Washington, Beijing, and Taipei.)

For decades, Taiwan has been of significant security, economic, and political interest to the United States. In 2011, Taiwan was the 10
th-largest U.S. trading partner and the 6th-largest market for U.S. agricultural exports. Taiwan is a major innovator of information technology (IT) products. Ties or tension across the Taiwan Strait affect international security (with potential U.S. intervention), the U.S.-Taiwan relationship, and U.S.-PRC cooperation. While the United States does not diplomatically recognize Taiwan, it is a significant autonomous actor in the world. Today, 23 countries including the Vatican have diplomatic relations with Taiwan as the ROC. Taiwan’s 23 million people enjoy self-governance with free elections. After Taiwan’s presidential election in 2008, the United States congratulated Taiwan as a “beacon of democracy.” Taiwan’s democracy has allowed its people a greater say in their status, given competing party politics about Taiwan’s national political identity and priorities. Taiwan held presidential and legislative elections on January 14, 2012. Kuomintang (KMT) President Ma Ying-jeou won re-election against the candidate from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Since Taiwan and the PRC resumed their quasi-official dialogue in 2008 under President Ma and cross-strait tension decreased, some have stressed concerns about steps seen as needed to be taken by the United States and by Taiwan to strengthen their relationship. Another approach has viewed closer cross-strait engagement as allowing U.S. attention to shift to expand cooperation with a rising China, which opposes U.S. arms sales and other dealings with Taiwan. In any case, Washington and Taipei have put more efforts into their respective relations with Beijing, while contending that they have pursued a positive, parallel U.S.-Taiwan relationship.

Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou has sought U.S. support for his policies, including Taiwan’s entry in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and proposed talks on maritime territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas. Other policy issues include whether to approve arms sales, restart Cabinet-level visits, and resume trade talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), or TIFA talks. The United States has cited concerns about Taiwan’s restrictions on U.S. beef, even as Taiwan seeks support in international organizations.

Legislation in the 112
th Congress include H.Con.Res. 39, H.Con.Res. 77, H.Con.Res. 122, H.R. 2583, H.R. 2918, H.R. 2992, H.R. 4310, H.R. 5902, H.R. 6313, H.Res. 352, H.Res. 616, S. 1539, S. 1545, S.Con.Res. 17, S.Res. 542, S. 3254, H.Res. 814, and H.R. 6649. Other congressional actions have focused on arms sales, particularly the issue of whether to sell F-16C/D fighters. (See CRS Report RL30957, Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales Since 1990.)

Date of Report: January 4, 2013
Number of Pages: 33
Order Number: R41952
Price: $29.95

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