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Resolving territorial disputes in the Far East – Kuril Islands

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A dispute over Kuril Islands is the reason why Russia and Japan still after more than 70 years have not signed a peace treaty to end the World War II. Could compromise about so long stagnating conflict which was so far discussed by Gorbachev, Yeltsin and also by Putin, be found this year during Russian planned visit in Japan?

The Kuril Islands lie north of Japan, and their status has been unresolved since 1945.Importance of Kuril Islands lies in strategic importance and access to Pacific for Russia. Importance of the Northern Territories lies also in its rich marine life, mineral deposits, gold, silver, titanium, iron and possibly offshore oil and gas reserves. National pride also plays an important role.

kuril1Russia’s view is that Kuril Islands, called by Japan the Northern territories are legally part of Russia as a result of the World War II. The Yalta Agreement, signed by the United States of America, Great Britain and the Soviet Union in 1945 stated the Kuril Islands shall be handed over to the Soviet Union and since Russia is its legal successor islands are Russian. Russian official stance is that Japans territorial claim over Kuril Islands is not historical nor geographical supported. Russian officials have expressed their preparedness to negotiations and resolving the territorial dispute. Kremlin considers the Northern territories to be the price Japan payed for Second World War. Russia also points to the Treaty of San Francisco as justification of ownership, which gave them right of occupation not annexation.

Japan’s view on four disputed islands Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan, Habomai islands which also have two names, one Russian and the other Japanese, differs from Russian. Disputed islands were annexed by the Soviet Union at the end of the WW II. Japan points out the Treaty of Shimoda – the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation from 1855, which defines the border between countries as a line running through the Vries Strait, between the islands of Iturup and Urup is a keystone in Japan’s claim of ownership. The Treaty of Saint Petersburg signed in 1875 gave Japan sovereignty over the entire Kuril Islands in exchange of relinquishing its claim to Sakhalin Islands. Japan and United State claimed that the Yalta agreement did not apply to the Northern territories because they are not a part of the Kuril Islands. Potsdam Declaration from the same year does not explicitly include the Northern territories, but in the phrase that Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the four major islands and “such minor islands as we determine” is today used to justify the Japan sovereignty over the islands. In 1951 Japan signed The San Francisco Peace Treaty, which states that Japan must give up all claims to the Kuril Islands, but these four islands were not mentioned since by Japan opinion has never been part of the Kurile chain. The peace treaty, however, did not grant a non-signatory country – Russia any rights. Since the 1960s country claimed all four islands to be Japanese territory. Japanese authorities oppose to any trips by Russian officials to these islands. We have seen many protests and not only on the Northern Territories Day. In 2010 when Dimitri Medvedev, as a first Russian leader to visit the islands, visited disputed islands sharp criticism from Japan began and temporary called its ambassador back from Russia. Their official stance is that Russia should return all four islands to Japan. In 2009 Japanese parliament adopted a law stating the Southern Kuril Islands are Japanese territory unlawfully occupied by Russians. All agree that territorial issues should be settled by a peace treaty.

kuril2With many international agreements and peace treaties between the Japan and Russia and before Soviet Union Robert A. Collins has in his paper in 2013 examined The Russo-Japanese Dispute over the Ownership of the Southern Kuril Island and concluded that scientific evidence and legal evidence justify Russia’s claim to all of the Kuril Island chain, including the islands of Kunashir and Iturup. He has summoned up that Japan in highly unlikely to sign a peace treaty with Russia. Is he right?

Broader region is also changing as a result of regional competition. Military Balance by International Institute for Strategic Studies revealed that Russia ranked third on scale of top defence budgets (in billions of US dollars spend for defence) for the year 2013 and what is surprising is that Japan is very high on the scale on seventh place. Regional competition and rival are seen among nations in Asia. China has raised concerns about Japan defense budget and questioned if Japan was abandoning it’s exclusively defence policy based on peace constitution that was signed at the end of the World War II with which country, gave up the right to wage war and was forbidden of use of force to settle international disputes. Japan plans for defense spending for fiscal 2015 was set to 42.1 billion dollars or about 329 dollars per capita, which is the highest largest military budget since WWII and three times larger compered to China. Reason is also territorial disputes in the East China Sea. Based on the World Bank Russia military expenditure as a % of GDP are 4.5 and rising and Japan 1% stagnating.

Recent events regarding the relationship between countries are Russia’s prime ministers Dmitry Medvedev intentions to visit archipelago that includes Japanese claimed islands. A senior official in Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs made a statement “If Russia wants to improve relations with Japan, it should restrain its actions”. Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has also sent a request to cancel the visit. The date of the visit is unknown, but the purpose, official Russian statement, is to bolster border security and installation of military and civil infrastructure on the islands. Russian government revealed a program to develop southern Kuril Islands or Northern Territories called by the Japanese. Japan and Russia are trying to build and strengthen their relationship with economic cooperation. We have seen many statements and intentions made publicly which are not helping to reach the goal of cooperation and solution of so long lasting territorial dispute that is not going to solve itself over time. It looks like backward solutions are not working so new narrative should be found. The territorial dispute should not be resolved separately but within the broader concept. Maybe some guaranties should be made because Japan is afraid the scenario that happened in the Crimea could also happen in the Kuril Islands. We are still waiting for the right solution that could solve the territorial dispute between Russia and Japan and could lead to increased cooperation between the countries. Agreement and solution between Moscow and Tokyo has yet to be reached and question of the rightful owner has to be answered.

Teja Palko is a Slovenian writer. She finished studies on Master’s Degree programme in Defense Science at the Faculty of Social Science at University in Ljubljana.

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Summit for Democracy Attempts to Turn Multicolor Modern World into Black and White Divisions

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One of the most important takeaways from the recent sixth plenary session of 19th CPC Central Committee is that Beijing flatly rejects Westernization as the path to modernize the Chinese society and the national economy. Instead, as it was underscored in the plenary Communiqué, the country will continue to stick to “socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era.” The leadership will preserve and further develop the system that served the people so well over last more than 70 years.

This statement did not come as a surprise to numerous China watchers all over the world. In fact, the critical choice between socialism and Western-type liberalism was not made in November of 2021, but decades ago.

One can argue that the outcomes of the sixth plenary session are yet another manifestation of a more general global trend: The world has been and will continue to be very diverse in terms of political systems, social models and economic patterns of individual nation states. Moreover, the odds are that this diversity will increase further literally in front of our eyes. Instead of the “end of history,” we will observe more intense multifaceted competition between different types of social development.

One way to react to this emerging reality is to accept it as a positive trend that enhances the overall stability of the global social system. The more diverse and complex the system is, the more resistant it is to various shocks and disturbances. To make a rough analogy with biology, a natural forest, which is a very diverse and complex ecosystem, is much more resistant to whims of the weather and natural disasters than a man-cultivated monocultural field. Accepting the trend, we should focus on how to manage competition within the increasingly diverse and complex world so that this competition will ultimately benefit all of us.

The other way to deal with this reality would be to start fighting against social, political and economic diversity by trying to advance one single model over all others. This is exactly what the Joe Biden administration is committed to doing by launching an ideological crusade against China, Russia and other nations that dare to deviate from the fundamentals of the Western development model. To make its case, the White House has announced a virtual Summit for Democracy to be hosted by the US on December 9–10 with the goal “to renew democracy at home and confront autocracies abroad.”

This vision reduces the multi-color palette of the modern world to a minimalist black and white graphics of a global fight between “democracies” and “autocracies.” It divides the international system into “us” and “them,” into “good” and “bad,” into “legitimate” and “illegitimate.” Such a reductionist system, if constructed, cannot be stable and shock-resistant by definition: Any major international crisis or a regional conflict could spark high risks of implosion.

It goes without saying that the nations of the world should firmly oppose corruption, abuses of power by state authorities and gross violations of human rights. If the goal of the Summit for Democracy were to confront these evils on a global scale, there would be no need to make the event exclusive by inviting mostly US friends and allies. If the goal is to advertise the US political, social and economic model, Washington should probably delay the summit and put its house in order first. If the goal is to isolate Beijing and Moscow in the world of politics, this is not likely to work well for the US.

Nations of the world have a right and even a duty to experiment with their political and social development paths. This experimenting contributes to the overall social experience of the humankind. Only history is in a position to judge what models turn out to be efficient, productive and fair and what models will find their place at the dump of human delusions. And history has a lot of means at its disposal to punish leaders, who believe that they possess a “one size fits all” model, which could successfully replace the existing diversity with an imposed universalism.

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The Chinese diplomatic force in the IAEA to confront Western leadership

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At the level of international relations, through China’s presence in all the relevant international organizations, and its membership in all of the United Nations organizations, specifically in the International Atomic Energy Agency “IAEA”, China aims to play the role of the (international balancer),  in light of its quest to maintain a certain level of competition with the United States of America politically and economically, this is in line with its desires to constantly play the role of the pole calling for (multipolarity and multilateral international pluralism through the Chinese political speeches of Chinese President “Xi Jinping”), in order to oppose American hegemony over the world and Washington’s policies to maintain its position as a single pole in the international community. China’s increase in its foreign investments, in order to enhance its economic hegemony over the world through its political and diplomatic tools with countries that have equal economic power with it in a number of (trade, scientific and technological issues, in addition to military and intelligence tools, as a reference for China’s new foreign political center).

  We note that the patterns of Chinese foreign policy is (the pattern of dependence, which is based on the high level of foreign participation in all current global issues), to restrict the attempts of the United States of America to pass its decisions internationally, and therefore China is trying to enter the membership of all international organizations so that China’s foreign policies remain more comprehensive, broader and more effective in the global change, and to change all directions of these issues and control them in the United States, and this is one of its new political tools that serve its global expansion through the (Chinese Belt and Road Initiative).

   In the same context, China focuses its external and competitive strength on its presence in effective international organizations, and rapprochement with the European Union, especially (France, Germany), despite not denying their relations with Washington, because of their strong influence in the global economy.  In addition to China’s reliance on the plan of foreign and foreign investments in countries that influence American influence through the Belt and Road projects, as well as China’s resort to the import policy of many resources necessary to develop its economic capabilities from certain European countries to open influential relations with them, leading to (the Chinese strategy to obtain  political support through the policies of alliances, consulates, representations, and its membership of international organizations), with the aim of influencing countries’ policies economically to pass important international decisions regarding the US challenge to China, such as: (the Iranian nuclear file, North Korea, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Syria, Venezuela, etc.), to increase with this  The level of external penetration of China economically and politically).

    China is mainly aiming to increase its membership in international organizations and the International Atomic Energy Agency, to (create a new balance of power and get rid of unipolarity restrictions through the medium powers and small states that the international system prevails with real pluralism, instead of the current state of American unipolarity).

   In my personal opinion, the countries of the Middle East may find in the rise of China and Russia, and perhaps other international powers to re-compete the United States,  as a (real opportunity to advance the effects of the pluralism of the international system at the regional level, and this would create more space for movement and opposition or bargaining and flexibility of movement for all to confront the policies of American hegemony, according to Chinese planning with Russia), and this also works to alleviate those restrictions and American dictates, and perhaps the sanctions and pressures it imposes on opponents of its approach internationally.

  The strategy of competition between China and the United States has become China’s long-term strategy, which is based on (the necessity of a heavy Chinese presence in all international organizations and forums, which allows China to communicate with various global powers and balance its relations with them compared to Washington), as well as diversifying the People’s Republic of China for its relations and distribution of its power among the competing countries, which allows China to show wide options on all important issues, and the most dangerous is that this Chinese presence, which (allows Beijing to prejudice the foundations of its relationship with the United States of America and the other various powers around the world).

  China and Russia also aim to form an alliance into all international and regional organizations to change the current provocative approach of the American policies in their confrontation, especially those related to mobilization policies and American alliances against them around the world. The Chinese alliance with Russia was so clear with the (Russian Foreign Minister “Sergey Lavrov’s visit” to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, while on the other hand, both Kuwait and Qatar have received a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the CPC Central Committee “Yang Jiechi”).

    On the other hand, China is among the Security Council countries that have the largest number of (Chinese peacekeeping forces around the world), and China is at the forefront of the (most contributing countries to the international peacekeeping budget, in addition to sending naval fleets to carry out maritime guard missions according to according to the UN Security Council resolutions), and therefore China may play an important role in establishing security in many countries in the world, and this is perhaps what China plans to ensure its use, in the event of a decline in American interest in the security of many regions in the world, within the framework of (the strategy of pressure of the American expenditures, retreat and withdrawal from many places around the world and devote its concern to the American interior issues and its worsening economic crises).

  The point is worthy to be considered here, is the report issued in July 2021 by the (International Atomic Energy Agency), entitled “Nuclear reactors around the world”, in which he analyzed China’s plan to (establish the dream of nuclear sovereignty around the world by starting to build and establish about 11 reactors). There are other Chinese nuclear reactors under construction, as well as the (new Chinese planning to build other 29 nuclear reactors), while the International Atomic Energy Agency’s work report on the other hand indicated that the known total number of reactors that are actually in service, other than those planned for construction, and other reactors under construction, is up to  About 50 Chinese nuclear reactors, a step that confirms that “China is clearly shifting towards nuclear energy in the production of electricity, and depends on it directly in its industrial renaissance during the coming period, especially as it is the number one country in the world that is expanding in the establishment of nuclear plants, followed by Russia, which plans to build other 20 new nuclear reactors, while it has 38 nuclear reactors in active service”. Some leaks indicate the presence of Chinese nuclear reactors, exercises and tests in the “Doklam Desert” region on the borders of “Xinjiang” province in northwest China.

   It also notes that, from the reality of the report issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency “IAEA”, its confirmation regarding (Chinese planning to become the first country in the world in the production of nuclear energy during the next ten years, in return for the decline in the share of the United States of America in nuclear reactors, which continues to the continuous decrease with the exit of new American numbers of reactors annually), as the future plan of the United States of America does not include the establishment of new reactors, which indicates that (the expansion of this type of energy tends towards China and Russia during the coming period, and these countries will have accumulated experiences, enabling them to dominate and control this new nuclear industry in various countries of the world, and this is what is actually common happening in the region).  Knowing that its uses will be mainly peaceful and to serve the interests of peoples and countries, so we may witness the coming period intensifying the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency in many files around the world to study them, inspect different regions and various other areas to ensure (their peaceful uses of nuclear energy in many development projects around the world).

   Hence, we almost understand (the importance of the Chinese presence and presence and its membership in the International Atomic Energy Agency in the first place), given that it actually owns 50 nuclear reactors in service, and its contribution to the production of electricity and providing energy to one and a half billion citizens, and China also has new nuclear reactors under construction, so (China seeks to be near the International Atomic Energy Agency, to embarrass, restrict and limit the American influence on the one hand against Beijing’s allies, led by Iran and then North Korea. Therefore, China has developed a strategic plan in the coming years, which is based on the intensity of the Chinese international presence and passing its foreign policies and decisions with the help of its Russian ally internationally).

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How AUKUS changed China’s diplomatic position towards the IAEA

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Image source: Wikipedia

The American challenge to China in its places of influence in the “Indo-Pacific” region, and its interference in the Taiwan issue, was a decisive factor in increasing China’s influence and presence in all international forums, especially (the official Chinese objection to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the Australian nuclear submarine deal and an attempt to mobilize the international community against this deal under the auspices of the United States of America). Hence, China, through its membership in the International Atomic Energy Agency, seeks to present its issues fairly internationally, as in the case of (the AUKUS Defense Agreement and the Australian nuclear submarine deal). This was confirmed by Chinese President “Xi Jinping” in his political speeches, that “China opposes American hegemony and its quest to stifle China in its Asian areas of influence”.

  Therefore, all the Chinese political speeches by President “Xi Jinping” came before all international organizations and forums, stressing (establishing a multipolar and multilateral international world with active actors in it to defend the rights of poor and marginalized peoples, and support development initiatives in developing countries), outlining the declared goals for “China’s global strategy in the new century”, which aspires to be one of its main and distinguished poles.

    The American challenge to China by signing the new AUKUS defense agreement and the intensity of American influence in the “Indo-Pacific” region, especially the (South China Sea, Taiwan’s Formosa Strait and the Pacific Ocean regions), that has given Washington the excuse to increase its presence in the Asian region surrounding China, despite the relative success. The Chinese side isolate Taiwan from communicating with the world for a long time, according to the principle of “one unified China”, according to what has been approved upon Taiwan internationally. However, a number of indicators have created a kind of concern at Beijing about the reality of the changing US position towards Taiwan to interfere in its internal affairs, most notably:

 The current US administration, which is led by the President “Joe Biden” called to “grant Taiwan a permanent seat in the United Nations”, after Washington signed the new AUKUS defense and security agreement with Australia and Britain, under the pretext of allowing Taiwan to present its issues with US support, which strongly provoked Beijing.

In addition to the fact that the “New AUKUS Defense Agreement” has provided the opportunity for the United States of America to interfere in (Taiwan’s internal affairs) to restrict China’s influence by inviting Taiwanese officials to visit the United States of America and visiting members of the US Congress to Taiwan, and announcing an increase in the volume of US military sales to Taiwan, and the (constant presence of the American troops, destroyers and warships in the Taiwan Strait to counter Chinese influence), which is inconsistent with all international conventions that (consider Taiwan an integral part of China), the USA has also provoked Beijing by giving an “entry visa” to the Taiwanese officials, and helping out with the “re-election of Taiwan’s opponent president to Beijing with 54% in the face of China”, in addition to Washington easing restrictions on dealing with Taiwanese officials, which continues so far with the current president of Taiwan, “Tsai Ing-wen”, and increasing the volume of American military sales to Taiwan.

The “Aukus Agreement” gave the United States of America the justification for sending American military ships in the Pacific Ocean and Taiwan’s Formosa Strait, under the pretext of protecting the “Indo-Pacific” region and defending the Taiwan Strait in the face of Chinese interference, as well as increasing the sale of American warplanes to  Taiwan, and the indefinite existence of the US forces in the “South China Sea and Taiwan Strait” under the pretext of protecting international maritime traffic, especially after the United States of America signed the “New AUKUS Defense Agreement” with (Australia, UK) and the “Quad Agreement” with (Japan, India, and Australia).

In ​​an earlier period, the US government deliberately changed the name of the organization in which it handles Taiwan affairs to (Taipei Economic and Cultural Representation Office in the United States of America).

   Hence, we understand the intensity of Chinese international calls after the American signing of the Aukus Defense Agreement, to (confront the policy of American alliances and calling for international polarity). Since China and the United States of America are two large countries that belong to the membership of the nuclear club, in addition to the actual influence of each of them internationally, so any action of either China or the United States of America affects the whole world, so “China submitted an objection to the International Atomic Energy Agency against  The United States of America for violating the terms and conditions of its membership in the International Atomic Energy Agency by sponsoring the Aukus nuclear agreement”.

    The signing by the United States of the new AUKUS defense agreement in the face of China, which is “allowed the Chinese side to put pressures on the Iranian nuclear file at the International Atomic Energy Agency and to put actual pressure on Washington”, which came from China’s call for the IAEA’s cooperation with the Iranian nuclear issue in a balanced and objective way to avoid the complex American calculations and China’s resolute response to the withdrawal of the United States of America from the “Iran nuclear agreement” in 2018 during the presidency of “Trump”. This is what China strongly opposes before the International Atomic Energy Agency “IAEA”, especially to embarrass the USA internationally as well, after the American signing of the AUKUS nuclear defense agreement in its confrontation.

  This is what was supported by statements of Chinese officials, calling for the International Atomic Energy Agency “IAEA” to play a constructive role in strengthening diplomatic efforts in favor of Iran in confronting the United States of America,  as a part of the proposed Chinese solutions towards this nuclear issue between Iran and the USA, which China have publicly directed diplomatic and international blame for (Washington’s violation of its international agreements and its negative behaviours of all its international conventions, foremost of which is its unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran).

  Therefore, the Chinese strategy came after the signing of the AUKUS Defense Agreement led by Washington, by calling on China to the IAEA to strengthen dialogue and cooperation with Iran in the face of American violations in the first place, in order to restore the confidence of the international community regarding (the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program), which is what China is trying to prove  And call him in the face of Washington.  China is also keen to hold and conduct international talks with the European Union and officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency on this Iranian nuclear issue, claiming that “the United States of America has made the world and the Middle East live in a critical stage, due to its violations of all its recognized international covenants”, and the Chinese government’s declaration that dialogue and cooperation with Iran, regarding its nuclear program is the only correct way to resolve this issue in the face of the current provocative American policies.

   The most remaining dangerous and important analysis for me is that China will respond firmly internationally against the United States of America, because of its sponsorship of the Aukus Defense Agreement in its confrontation, especially with the increase in those American and European invitations in the first place, pending the outcome of the new talks with Iran under the auspices and supervision of the officials and supervisors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the final decision to be taken on (consideration of referring Iran’s file to the UN Security Council to take a position or impose sanctions against Iran). Of course, there will be an opportunity here for China and its ally Russia to teach the United States of America and its traditional European allies a harsh lesson by using (veto or objection right) to block any decisions affecting the Iranian nuclear file, which will be the summit of Chinese provocation to Washington internationally after its infringement of its rights by signing the “Aukus Defense Agreement”.

   Here, we find that the role of China will seek at the present time to (extension of the agreement to monitor the Iranian nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Agency), but in the event of the failure of these talks with Iran due to those American pressures on the International Atomic Energy Agency “IAEA”, and in the event of (the success of the American planning to issue a new resolution by the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency against Iran and referral of the issue to the Security Council), both Russia and China will respond and will definitely refuse to support the issuance of any international or US resolutions against Iran. This represents a real Chinese and Russian challenge to US power after it signed the AUKUS defense agreement with Australia in the “Indo-Pacific” region to curb Chinese influence.

  It remains the most prominent and important here, that (the growing Russian and Chinese support for Iran had a negative impact on the efforts of the United States of America and the European Union to bring Tehran to the negotiating table during the last period due to the Iranian conditions supported by Russia and China), and here we analyze that the current situation which (allows Iran to include more demands and conditions in its list for obtaining more concessions from Washington and its European allies in the nuclear negotiations), and this will therefore be the (harsh and resolute Chinese internationally response to confront US policies, after signing the AUKUS Defense Agreement to restrict and contain China’s influence in the “Indo-Pacific” region).  China will respond forcefully before the International Atomic Energy Agency and the international community against US policies, due to (the American support of the nuclear proliferation and competition by adopting the Aukus nuclear deal in favor of Australia).

    Therefore, monitoring the relationship between the United States of America and China and identifying points of conflict and convergence between the two countries, and the impact of these relations on the international system and the policies of the work of international bodies and organizations, in addition to the Chinese rise and its impact on American hegemony and the adoption of the United States of America (containment strategy) to control this Chinese emergence, all of this, enables us later to understand and analyze the nature of the next stage and all its international ties, especially with regard to the Iranian nuclear file, and China’s accusation of the United States of America violating to the international covenants, especially by signing the AUKUS Agreement, which will lead to (international nuclear conflict and competition that undermines international security stability).

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