The ongoing disagreement over the Senkaku, or Diaoyu, islands is nothing new to those who follow current events in East Asia, even as both China and Japan have made stumbling efforts at negotiation. the first of which took place on September 25.
Despite the storm, the truth is that the exact value of the uninhabited islands is still relatively unknown. A deeply revealing opinion piece, by Yasushi Nakashima of The Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s leading daily, analysed possible uses for the island and how much the dispute has cost the nations involved. Nakashima’s specifically drew attention to the questionable viability of the magnitude of the oil reserves beneath the islands. Maybe there’s not much tere after all.
A United Nations commissioned survey from 1968 asserted that the area between Taiwan and Japan would “likely become the world’s major oil-producing area in the future.” However, recent reports on the area around the Senkaku show that the possible oil reserves amount to only about 3 billion barrels. This is significantly lower than other reserves around the world, some of which “amount to several tens of billions of barrels or more.” Thus, this drawn-out dispute over a handful of barren islands and paltry sum of oil barrels could prove highly uneconomical for both nations.
So have the rioting and overzealous displays of patriotism justified those potential 3 billion barrels of oil? To put it simply, the answer is no. Various Japanese factories and supermarket chains have “suffered hundreds of millions of yen in damage” due to the riots that broke out across China. Further, the possible decrease in Japan’s investment into China could “deal a heavy blow to the already slowing Chinese economy.”
All things considered, by allowing the dispute to drag on, both countries are merely attempting to ensure their nation’s pride is safeguarded. They are ultimately failing to see the benefits to be gained from cooperation, such as “contributing to Asia’s stability.”
Such stability is probably worth more than a couple rocks and buckets of oil.