According to constructivist theorists, words and actions are the basis of peaceful or chaotic societies. They also claim that the nature of society determines the actions and words that people use. Constructivists argue that values, ideas, and beliefs influence the identity of the state. They determine the strategies and policies, which government uses to maintain their interests. Therefore, in the society, the key players and the rules, which help in the policy and strategy formulation are the two essential parts of conflict resolution.
In the case of the Senkaku/ Diaoyu islands, China and Japan are the two key players. However, because of the Treaty of Mutual Corporation between the US and Japan, the United States is also a player. Unfortunately, its role is primarily biased because the treaty requires it to support the Japanese interests in their claim. Therefore, the main problem in the dispute of the ownership of the islands is about the position that the US should assume. Besides, the period between 1945 and 1972 when the islands were under the administration of the US, they have always been a part of the Ryuku islands in Japanese jurisdiction (Manyin, 2012). However, in the 1970s, after the discovery of oil in the islands, the Republic of China took an interest in them and claimed that they were part of the Chinese possession, which the Japanese people failed to return after the colonial period. Moreover, Taiwan also has a claim on the islands. Other than oil reserves, the islands also offer rich fishing grounds and essential shipping lanes in the area (Fravel, 2010). Therefore, their strategic positioning and natural resources attracted the interest of both Japan and China.
Although the US is bound to support Japan in their action on the claim of the islands, it has other options. The constructivist theorists argue that socially constructed realities define international systems (Burchill et al., 2013). They reason that for harmony, societies, and their leadership has to adhere to shared practices, rules, norms, identities, and preferences. The realities require dedication on action and words that align with the interests and identities of each state. In other words, while the US is bound to Japan in its claim, it must consider self-interests and make policies primarily based on them.
Consequently, while the US government does not take a position on the issues of sovereignty of other nations, its interests in the international alliance are key. It influences the dynamics of alliance politics. In the coalition politics, the US policies must feature two aspects. The first is the issue of supporting its partnerships in the interest of economic, military, and political gains. According to the anarchists and constructivists, nations must ensure that their actions and policies safeguard them. In alliances, for instance, countries take up many friends who support their vision and goal even when there is peace (Fravel, 2010). The primary reason for the creation of partnerships, according to the anarchists, is that societies might never predict when others would attack them or compromise their security. While states can employ options of territorial aggrandizement and armament, the most common in the modern times is the formation of alliances. Therefore, in the political interest of the US, it has to support the claim of Japan.
On another front, the political decision is also a game of adversary. In other words, other than looking at the alliances that the US should support in the case of China and Japan disputes over the islands, the government should also consider the possible adversaries that would arise from its decisions. For instance, if it does not support Japan’s claim over the islands, it risks looking an ally and making a political adversary. On the other hand, China, although not an ally in the political sense, is also not an adversary (Fravel, 2010).
Therefore, the policy-making organs in the US should factor the two elements in a political resolution. According to disarmament advocates, the goal should be a peaceful settlement. The majority would not support a constructivists’ approach that focuses on the individual interests of each state. Therefore, in the case of choosing allies or avoiding more enemies, the disarmament advocates would prefer dialogue. They would support dialogue because it ensures the neutrality of the US and offers the two nations a platform for peaceful resolution of their disputes (Manyin, 2012). However, the reality, according to constructivists, is that societies change and, therefore, government actions should depict the variations.
In conclusion, the actions of the United States in the dispute over the Japan and China islands should focus primarily on the national security and interest. On the one hand, if the US takes a public stand and supports its allies such as Japan, it risks entrapment. If the US allies know that the nation will go to war for their actions, they are likely to become bolder in their political causes against others. However, if the US does not take a stand, it leaves its allies to question its dedication and commitment to their treaties. It also risks empowering other nations such as China whose interests do not support the allies of the US. Therefore, in resolving the political dilemma, the US should focus on its national security in the present and future. The current national security entails supporting its allies. However, future concerns might change together with allies. Therefore, the solution is to seek an alternative option, such as the involvement of other arbitrates international organs, UN, for example, to mediate the conflict resolution.
- Burchill, S., Linklater, A., Devetak, R., Donnelly, J., Nardin, T., Paterson, M., & True, J. (2013). Theories of International Relations. Palgrave Macmillan.