U.S. Applies Double Standards to Disputed Islands

The dispute over the Chinese translation for “Chinese Taipei” – whether it should be translated into “Zhonghua Taipei” (中華台北) or “Zhongguo Taipei” (中國台北), has caused frictions between Taipei and Beijing authorities.* South Korea and Japan are upset with each other’s claims of ownership and names for the disputed island of Korean “Dokdo,” or Japanese “Takeshima.” Now the U.S. has intervened with a move not only to adopt a totally different name, neither Dokdo nor Takeshima, but also to mark the island as “undesignated territory.”

The reason behind this move is that Korea and Japan are in a dispute and the U.S. should stay “neutral” regarding the naming and sovereignty issue of the territory. If this is the case, what would the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN) do with other disputed islands such as the Diaoyutai Islets, called “Diaoyudao” by the two authorities across the Taiwan Straits and “Senkaku-shoto” by Japan?

If we use the Pingying** version of “Diaoyudao” to search on the BGN official website, there are no results found. Using “Diaoyutai” to search, the number of query results totals 8. The website mentions Beijing, Liaoning, Henan, Hunan, Anhui, Jiangsu for Diaoyutai, but, nevertheless, none of them exactly refers to the disputed island of Diaoyutai. Using the literal translation of Diaoyutai, Fishing Platform, no result is found .

Using the keyword “Senkaku-shoto” to search yields three matches, including its alternative names of “Senkaku-gunto” and “Senkaku-retto.” All of them are marked as a Japanese sovereign territory, under the administrative authority of Okinawa. Checking its latitude and longitude reveals that this is the exact island that is claimed by the two governments across the Taiwan Straits and Japan. The BGN official website has spontaneously eliminated all disputes.

The U.S. applied double standards towards the disputed names of Dokdo and Diaoyutai, which it has designated as both Japanese. As both Japan and Korea are America’s allies, playing important roles in the strategic layout in north-eastern Asia, Washington would rather not directly intervene, but carefully manipulate the BGN’s “neutrality”.

Although Washington didn’t get involved in the dispute over Diaoyutai, the U.S. has held regular large-scale joint-military drills with Japan under the hypothetical assumption of peripheral emergencies. The BGN left no room for any variant interpretations of the interested sides.

What would the two authorities across the Taiwan Straits think and feel about the “neutrality” of Washington?

* Translator’s note: The former Zhonghua Taipei refers to Taiwan within Greater China with a more cultural context; while the latter Zhongguo Taipei implies that Taiwan is in fact a part of China.

**Alphabetical characters used to phonetically spell out Chinese words. Pingying causes much confusion as Chinese words can be spelled multiple ways based on what the listener hears.

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