Taiwan has turned down Japan’s request to formally take over all airspace over Yonaguni Island, a Japanese island.

Apparently, Taiwan likes the arrangement the way it is–Taiwan responsible for the airspace over the western half of the island (which is only 29 square kilometers), while Japan is responsible for airspace over the eastern half. The island is Japanese territory but only 110 kilometers from Taiwan.

The ministry also expressed regret over what it said was Japan’s failure to fully communicate with Taiwan before coming to such a decision, as the west side of the Air Defense Identification Zone over the island falls under Taiwan’s jurisdiction.

MOFA deputy spokesman James Chang confirmed Thursday that Japan’s representative office in Taipei had notified the ministry that Japan had in principle decided to redraw its AIDZ over Yonaguni Island by moving the demarcation westward in mid-June.

After discussions with the relevant government agencies, including the Ministry of National Defense and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, the MOFA issued a press statement earlier in the day rejecting Japan’s proposal.

The Republic of China government finds Japan’s decision unacceptable because the rezoning involves Taiwan’s airspace and the integrity of its national sovereignty, the MOFA said. (Link)

The Taiwanese press is reporting that Japan simply decided to expand control over the island airspace and serve notice to the Taiwanese. (See above). Yet the Japanese press, and Reuters, and even this previous article from the same Taiwanese news site describe it as a request. This from the Reuters article may have something to do with that:

Japan communicated its request “inadequately” to Taiwan, which wants to keep its existing air space intact, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Apparently Japan does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and made the request through Japan’s Interchange Association office in Taipei, which serves as a de facto embassy. Hmm, I see what the Taiwanese are getting at: it must be humiliating to have a country that doesn’t even recognize yours ask for some of your airspace.

“If they are upset, too bad, unless they go to Washington and kick us around,” said Alexander Huang, strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taipei. “We listen to Washington, but not Tokyo.”

That actually would have been the smarter thing to do, to have Washington make the request instead. The ADIZ boundaries as Washington originally drew them made no sense. It only follows that Washington should be part of fixing them.

And of course, there are territorial claims involved here.

Japan and Taiwan also dispute the eight uninhabited East China Sea islands known as the Senkakus, which are rich in fisheries and possibly undersea natural gas reserves. The issue flared in 2008, when a Taiwan fishing boat collided with a Japanese coastguard vessel and sank.

I’d heard about the 2008 incident and have read it described as a “ramming” by the Japan Coast Guard vessel. It sounds unusually provocative and aggressive on the part of Japan. Will make a point of trying to learn more and doing a post about it.

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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 536 post(s) on Japan Security Watch