Senkaku Islands Negotiation Idea

A couple of days ago I posted about the Senkaku Islands dispute and the relation to the Asia Super Grid idea.

With this post, I will just shortly note an idea I had yesterday about how to solve the problem over negotiation. That would be highly desirable for the topic of this blog. Any large scale renewable energy generation from the Gobi desert would obviously need peace and stability in East Asia.

First, a couple of conditions.

For starters, a negotiation obviously can only be a solution if both sides are willing to negotiate in principle. If Japan as well as China insist on getting their maximum position, there would be no point.

Second, “both sides” actually is a strong simplification. It leaves Taiwan out of the picture, as well as the United States. But that is not a problem for the purpose of this post, since it is just theoretical speculation in the first place.

So here is my idea.

Flip a coin. Have the winner come up with a set of conditions for the “Treaty Resolving Territorial Issues Between Japan and China”.

For example, just to illustrate, assume that Japan wins the coin flip. They could come up with these conditions:

China pays 100 million dollars to Japan and gets sovereignty over those islands. In turn, Japan gets 70 percent of the income from any exploration of mineral and oil resources in the maritime exclusive zone around the islands, including energy  production from water and wind.

And now the point of my idea. China would be able to choose which side of the deal they want. They could take the original deal, or one with roles reversed (Japan pays $100 million and gets undisputed sovereignty, and China gets 70 percent from the exclusive zone).

This is of course only a variation on the old idea of distributing assets from an inheritance between two people by the procedure of having one person split the pie and the other one choose which piece he wants.

That procedure should make sure that both sides can live with the result. If China in the above scenario thinks that the original proposal is one-sided, fine, they can use that to their advantage and get a deal that they themselves think is better than Japan’s.

Unfortunately, I am not sure that both sides are interested in negotiating the issue in the first place. So I am afraid that this will only be a nice idea without relevancy in the real world.

But I, personally, like it enough to write a couple of lines here.

Update: SPIEGEL says in this article (in German) that there are 16 billion liters of oil in the East China Sea, about one tenth of world wide resources. That is a lot of oil, worth a lot of money.

Since having strong tensions between Japan and China would make it, all other things equal, more difficult to develop those oil resources, from the climate point of view maybe it would be better to avoid a quick negotiated solution, which would in turn lead to keeping more of that oil in the ground.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

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