Moscow’s Baltic Enclave: Potential Flashpoint for Cold War Redux?

International Relations, Politics, Regional History

The Curonian Spit is a distinctive geographical feature on the Baltic Coast, a narrow spit of sand-dune covered land some 98km in length. UNESCO describes it as a “unique example of a landscape of sand dunes under constant threat from (the) natural forces of wind and tide”[1]. Recently the Spit has been the scene of a different, human-produced threat, one evoking memories for locals of a past Cold War conflict.

Curonian Spit
Curonian Spit
Curonian Spit bridges the Russian oblast of Kaliningrad❈ with eastern Lithuania, thus being a landform shared by the two countries. The normally tranquil seaside atmosphere has in the last two years been replaced by a tense mood, especially on the Lithuanian side. The seeds of the tension has its origins in Russia’s military incursions into the Ukraine in 2014 and the ensuing conflict over the control of the Crimean Peninsula. The Lithuanian government interpreted the brazen nature of Moscow’s military intervention in that sovereign state as a warning to the possibility of it being next on President Putin’s takeover list[2].

In the aftermath of the events in Crimea in 2014, the lessons of history (the 50 year Soviet occupation of the Baltic States) gave the Lithuanians and the other Balts cause to fear that a new invasion might be on the cards. Since then there has been immediate and tangible evidence of the perceived threat from Russia. Moscow has undertaken a renewed military build-up in Kaliningrad, adding an Air Force detachment and early warning system (Voronezh radar) to the land forces already on the ground[3].

Geopolitics plays a part in heightening the threat to the Baltics. Lithuania’s safeguard (as well as that of Latvia and Estonia) is membership of NATO, however the location of this chunk of Russian territory (Kaliningradskaya Oblast) cuts the Baltic States (henceforth BS) off from the rest of western Europe. Adding to these concerns is the fact that Russia’s Baltic fleet is stationed at Kaliningrad. NATO’s countermove has seen it propose sending battalions of 1,000 (mostly US) troops each to the BS and Poland.

The Vilnius government’s reaction to the Crimea crisis in military terms was several-fold – forming a Rapid Response Force (RRF); reintroducing a national draft to bolster Lithuania’s paltry regular force (8,000 troops); mobilising volunteer partisans (eg, the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union). The motivation is the possibility of direct military intervention by Russia, but the more immediate worry is the sense that the Kremlin could well employ the same tactics as in Ukraine, using pro-Russian (Udijan) separatist insurgents within Lithuania to destabilise the country[4].

imageBoth sides claim that their militarisation of the Kaliningrad/ Baltic region is a necessary counter to the actions of the other, recreating in miniature the standoff scenario of the Cold War. NATO’s take on Russian intentions is that it wants to use Kaliningrad to strategically position surface-to-air (Iskander) missiles to block NATO access to BS and northern Poland in the event of an attack on these member states[5].

Lithuania’s and the other BS’ concerns about Russia extend to the possibility of hybrid war. Russia has also adopted a soft power approach to undermining the BS governments through a variety of means, eg, influencing electoral results by fuelling social tensions within the Russian minorities (less effective in Lithuania than in the other, more Russian populated countries); harming BS economies through economic and energy blockades, wilfully destroying infrastructures; trying to weaken BS faith in the security structure provided by NATO[6].

Both NATO and Russia have stepped up their displays of “muscle flexing” in Kaliningrad in an attempt to intimidate the other side. During August 2016, a large contingent of NATO ground troops fired artillery and mortars close to the border with the Russian province. At the same time Russian troops drilled close by the oblast’s capital. In September the Russian Baltic Fleet undertook exercises off the coast as a demonstration of the Republic’s naval power. Both sides have extensively conducted war games in Kaliningrad … all part of an ongoing tit-for-tat jockeying for advantage in the Baltics. Russia and NATO both claimed to be reacting to border encroachments which had put at risk its national security[7].

The thousands of NATO forces on the ground are clearly intended to provide a deterrence to any plan by the Russians for aggression against the BS. The deliberate execution of large-scale army manoeuvres in Kaliningrad on the borders with Lithuania and Poland by Russia are aimed at destabilising the border area and shaking local confidence in the Alliance[8].

It should not be overlooked that the militarisation of the Baltic area cuts both ways! Earlier this year NATO’s “Anaconda-2016” operation was comparably large in scale to anything the Kremlin has engineered in Kaliningrad. A 10-day exercise involving 31,000 troops from 24 countries … a blatant power-play that was criticised by the German foreign minister for being a Western show of “sabre-rattling and warmongering”[9].

Most commentators play down the likelihood of the tense stand-off in the Baltic region between NATO and Russia escalating into an open war, however it remains a critical hotspot in international circles. There have been recent “close-call” incidents between US and Russia military personnel, two such in April 2016 involved Russian fighter planes and US warships.

The Baltics’ concerns as to what the Russians might do in Kaliningrad are matched by other members of the Alliance, not least of which the US. The Pentagon and military think tanks, in the light of Moscow’s readiness to intervene in Ukraine and more recently in Syria, are not optimistic about their prospects in a military conflict with Russia in Kaliningrad, were it to eventuate. US military analysts concede that the US/NATO would be no match for the Russian forces given the level and quality of Moscow’s military installations in the oblast[10].

From the Kremlin’s viewpoint, Kaliningrad is integral to Russia’s western defence system. In ‘Putinspeak’ Kaliningrad is part of the “Russian World” – moreover the Baltics as a whole are part of that world, which in Putin’s thinking are “lost lands (that Russia) has a historic right to”[11]. Often, Putin observers have drawn a link between the image portrayed by the Russian president (autocratic strongman, ex-KGB, ultra-nationalist) with his supposed designs on a more expansive role in the region. Putin has justified any extra-border aggression on Russia’s part as being consistent with his unwavering commitment to protect ethnic Russians anywhere outside in the world[12].

Unequivocally Putin’s aggressive forays into Georgia (2008) and the Ukraine (2014) underscore that urge for Russian expansionism, psychologically perhaps revealing a desire to regain the leadership role of the former USSR. Many in the West are quick to pounce on Putin’s public pronouncements about Russia asserting or defending its rights in the world as proof of an aim on his part to establish a Pan-Slavic empire, the notion of one people (Slavs), one single political entity (supposedly a hankering back to the glory days of either the Tsarist era or the Russian-dominated Soviet Union)[13].

Although speculation has been rife in the international media that Putin will launch a full-scale attack on the Baltics (à la Crimea), replete with dire warnings that WWIII is imminent, there is no consensus that this is a likely outcome. Rather, most commentators see a persistence of the tension that has been building up, an environment in Kaliningrad which is highly weaponised and therefore continues to be unstable and dangerous.

A more likely scenario than outright invasion of BS by Russia is that Moscow will try to foment separatism, inflame the local radicals and militants to rebel against the Baltic governments – an objective that may be more attainable in Latvia and Estonia with ethnic Russian populations of 27% and 24% respectively, than in Lithuania (less than 6% ethnic Russians). Russia may also ‘parachute’ in Russian activists and volunteers over the border to act as “fifth columnists”[14].

For the Baltic countries membership of both the EU and NATO seems to offer reassurance, its citizens by and large simply get on with their daily lives, neither panicked or pessimistic about the shadow of Putin’s Russia on their doorsteps. An air of edgy uncertainty, a tenseness nonetheless prevails as everyone waits and watches for Putin’s next move⍁.

Suwalki Gap
Suwalki Gap

┄┅ ┈ ┉ ┄ ┅ ┈ ┉┄ ┅ ┈ ┉ ┄ ┅ ┈ ┉┄ ┄ ┅ ┈ ┉ ┄ ┅ ┈ ┉┅ ┈ ┉ ┄ ┅ ┄
❈ the city of Kaliningrad, incorporated into the USSR at the end of WWII, was previously Königsberg, a German city (before that it was part of East Prussia). Originally, the area was called Sambia, after an Old Prussian tribe by that name
⍁ See also the following, related blog ‘Kaliningrad Oblast: Withering of the Russian Connexion?’

[1] ‘Curonian Spit’, UNESCO World Heritage Centre, www.whc.unesco.com
[2] The Curonian Spit is not the only hotspot in Russia’s western sphere, another identified by Western strategists and carefully watched by Poland, Lithuania and the US is Suwalki Gap. The Gap is a thin corridor of land separating Poland and Lithuania and stretching for about 100km in length. The NATO allies worry that it could be relatively easy for Russia to capture the Gap, and in so doing, connect Kaliningrad directly with Russia’s ally Belarus … at the same time it would cut off the Baltics from all NATO member territory and further encircle Poland to its northeast, M Bearak, ‘This tiny stretch of countryside is all that separates Baltic states from Russian envelopment’, Washington Post, (20-Jun-2016), www.washingtonpost.com
[3] ‘Russian Kaliningrad region poses challenge at NATO summit’, Daily Mail, (Aust.) 7-Jul-2016, www.dailymail.co.uk. The contrary view of Moscow is that the Vilnius government is using the fear of Russia to mobilise its own people, (view of a Russian political scientist), ‘If Russia Gets Crimea, Should Germany Get Kaliningrad?’, The Moscow Times, (21-Mar-2014), www.themoscowtimes.com. Lithuanian officials retorted that Russia was trying to buy off Lithuania soldiers to spy on behalf of the Kremlin, R Emmott & A Sytas, ‘Nervous Baltics on war footing as NATO tries to deter Russia’, Reuters, (13-Jun-2016), www.reuters.com
[4] K Engelhart, ‘Lithuania Thinks the Russians Are Coming – and It’s Preparing with Wargames’, 18-May-2015, Vice News, www.news.vice.com; A Nemtsova, ‘Ground Zero and the New Cold War’, The Daily Beast, (29-Aug-2016), www.thedailybeast.com
[5] L Kelly, ‘Russia’s Baltic outpost digs in for standoff with NATO’, Reuters, 5-Jul-2016, www.mobile.reuters.com
[6] J Hyndle-Hussein, ‘The Baltic States on the conflict in Ukraine’, OSW Commentary,, (25-Jan-2015), www.osw.waw.pl
[7] H Mayer, ‘Putin’s Military Buildup in the Baltics Stokes Invasion Fears’, Bloomberg, (6-Jun-2016), www.bloomberg.com
[8] ‘Lithuania, Poland, NATO Drills Aimed at Rising Tensions on Russian Border’, Sputnik News, (02-Jun-2016), www.sputniknews.com
[9] for a contrary view from a Western source that downplays the destabilising intentions of Putin in the Baltics see P Gleupp, ‘Putin’s “Threats” to the Baltics: a Myth to Promote NATO Unity’, CounterPunch, (12-Jul-2016), www.counterpunch.org
[10] See K Mizokami, ‘How a Russia vs. NATO war would really go down’, The Week, (16-Jun-2016), www.theweek.com; ‘Baltic Conflict Would Spell Defeat for US, NATO Against Russia’, Sputnik News, (04-Feb-2016), www.sputniknews.com
[11] ‘The Invasion of Crimea is Hurting Russia’s Other Enclave’, (Interview with Ola Cichowlas), Forbes, 6-Jun-2014, www.forbes.com;
[12] characterised as the “Putin Doctrine”, R Coalson, ‘Putin Pledges To Protect All Ethnic Russians Anywhere. So, Where Are They?’, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (10-Apr-2014), www.rferl.org
[13] or perhaps to an ideological, mythic state, neither East or West but the “otherness” of a multi-ethnic melange of a state, one with Mongol roots, under the hegemony of “Great Russian Nationalism”, P Mishra, ‘Putin’s Eurasian Fantasy’, Bloomberg L.P. (17-Mar-2014). Putin’s use of the term Novorossiya (New Russia) in 2014 in reference to the Ukraine situation is another association with the (Tsarist) past and a manifestation of new-found Russian assertiveness.
[14] ‘Is Russia really a threat to the Baltic States?’, Al Jazeera, 8-Jul-2016, www.aljazeera.com

Seemingly, Japan and Korea “Find Quarrel in a Straw?” … but its what lies beneath the Rocky Outcrops that counts

International Relations, Politics, Regional History

Not to be outdone by the strident diplomatic goings-on in the South China Sea, some of the groups of islands off the Northeast Asian coast have in recent years generated their own share of heat and controversy. The better known of the northern island disputes involve the Kuril Island group in the Sea of Okhotsk – diplomatically fought over for decades by Russia/USSR on one side and Japan on the other.

Some rocks between a rock & a hard place!
Some rocks between a rock & a hard place!
The other North Asian island dispute that I am going to focus on in this post has a lower media profile than the Kurils stand-off but has nonetheless contributed to a rise in tensions in the Sea of Japan between Korea and Japan❈. The highly contested islands are a miserable looking prize, two principal islets♰ plus 30 smaller slabs of rock emerging out of the sea (an even less prepossessing sight that the disputed Senkaku Islands further south). As with the Senkakus the rocky outcrops have been known by several different names depending on who was doing the naming. The neutral name is the Liancourt Rocks回, named after the French whaler which was almost wrecked around the rocks in 1849. The Japanese name is Takeshima (meaning “Bamboo Islands”). The Koreans call it Tok-do or Dok-do (meaning “Solitary Islands”). To complicate the matter the disputants have ascribed various other names to the islands at different periods, eg, Matsushima, Yankodo, Usan-do, Juk-do, Sok-do, etc, which have further obscured the question of ownership. On occasions the neighbouring island of Ulleung-do has been mistaked (innocently or otherwise) for Dok-do/Matsushima, and some historic charts show Ulleung-do to the east of Dok-do (which it isn’t!)[1].

The antecedents of the dispute over the islands appear to reside in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. Under the Japan-Korea protocol in force then, Japan was green-lighted to occupy the islets for the duration of the war on the condition that it vacated them post-bellum, terms which Japan violated in 1905 by incorporating them into its nearby Shimane prefecture (without publicly announcing it had done so!), a prelude to Japan’s full annexation of the Korean Peninsula in 1910. Japan retrospectively used the Terra Nullius argument as justification for its seizure of the geo-strategic Liancourt Rocks.

Under the Western-imposed terms of the peace treaty (the 1951 San Francisco Treaty), Japan forfeited all possessions it had taken by force. After South Korea (ROC) retook Dok-do/Tok-do in 1954, Tokyo protested, arguing that as the disputed islands were not mentioned by name in the Treaty, it did not apply to them and therefore Japan should retain them (the SFT was a poorly draughted document in this respect)[3]. Since Korea’s reoccupation it has maintained a coast guard outpost on the islets (lighthouse, docking facilities added in the late 1990s), however they have remained almost entirely unoccupied[4].

Japan responded by referring the issue to the International Court of Justice. This tactical move was in vain though, because the rules of international law require both parties to agree to the dispute being heard at the ICJ before it can proceed. Korea, already in possession of the islets, naturally showed no interest in going this route … ROC’s position has remained steadfastly that Dok-do/Tok-do is “irrefutably (South) Korean”. Moreover, as Dong-Joon Park and Danielle Chubb argue, there is a powerful emotional dimension to the issue for Koreans, one that triggers their sense of “national identity”. Dok-do has symbolic significance as a sombre reminder of Koreans’ shameful experience of annexation by Japan[5].

Annals of Joseon Dynasty
Annals of Joseon Dynasty
Around 1962 Japan’s case shifted more from the Terra Nullius view to one emphasising Takeshima as an “inherent and ancient territory” of Japan. Both sides in fact have resorted to “proof” in the shape of old maps and documents purporting to support each country’s claim. Ancient texts and maps, such as Samguk Sagi (‘History of Three Kingdoms’), the Paldo Chongdo (‘Map of the Eight Provinces’) and the ‘Map of Three Adjoining Countries’ (Sangoku Tsūran Zusetsu), have been dredged up to advance the case of one side or the other. These pieces of “evidence” have tended to be characterised by ambiguities over names, inaccuracies in island locations on early maps, etc, making them problematic and in most cases not particularly helpful in resolving the issue[6].

North Korea’s view of the Dok-do/Takeshima dispute
North Korea (DRK) in 2011 affirmed that the Tok Islets (Pyongyang’s name for Dok-do) is an “inalienable part of the territory of Korea”[7]. But the matter is a diplomatically tricky one for North Korea given that it does not recognise the government of South Korea … despite the depth of its feelings on the issue it does not want to be seen supporting a position taken by its ideological enemies in Seoul. Accordingly it has tended to be fairly cautious to the extent that it has bought into the dispute.

United States’ position on the islets’ dispute
In the late 1940s and again after the outbreak of the Korean War the US military used the Liancourt Islands for bombing practice. From the ratification of the Treaty to San Francisco to after ROK recaptured Dok-do, key figures in the US administration such as John Foster Dulles and Dean Rusk privately concurred with Japan that it had a right to the islets, saying off-the-record that President Syngman Rhee‘s unilateral takeover was an illegal move. Publicly though, the US refused to back the Japanese claim (wanting to avoid getting offside with its new ally ROK)[8]. A policy of strict neutrality on the question of Dok-do V Takeshima continues to be practiced by the current US (Obama) administration.

Economic value of the islets
The two countries contesting Liancourt Rocks have traditionally harvested the area’s rich fishing grounds of squid, crab and mackerel (yielding an estimated 13m tons of fish per year[9]). As well as this there is the attraction of potential gas and oil under its waters. In the early 2000s large hydrocarbon deposits were discovered around the islets. Korea and Australia launched a joint, highly capitalised gas and oil exploration project in the immediate vicinity[10]. Korea and Japan’s demand for new energy resources feeds into the push for control of Dok-do/Takeshima (especially for Japan with its reliance on imported oil).

Japan and ROK’s fundamental disagreement about ownership of the Liancourt Rocks hasn’t shutdown the possibility of cooperation between the two countries in the vital Sea of Japan/East Sea. Back as far as 1965 South Korea and Japan were able to negotiate a Treaty of Basic Relations which sought to normalise their diplomatic relations. The Treaty granted Japan access to the Sea’s fishing grounds and quotas were set on the fish caught by each (provisional zones were introduced in 1998). In 2002 the two countries were again able to reach an agreement on reducing catch quotas to avoid depleting the fish stocks of the Sea[11].

imageAs part of the claim by both sides to be the rightful owner of Liancourt Rocks each have stressed their historic fishing ties to it. Japan traces its fishing connection to 1661 (Korea even earlier), and cites the on-going activities on Takeshima by Japanese fishermen, circa 1900-1935, eg, hunting sea lions (granted licences to do so by the government in Tokyo), gathering seaweed and abalone, to support its case[12]. ROK counters, referencing evidence from Japanese sources (the “Chosun (Korean) Fishing Manuals” written by the Black Dragons, a Shimane-based nationalist organisation). This Japanese guidebook states that Yankodo (Dok-do) was clearly Chosun or Joseon (Korean) territory before the Japanese annexation[13].

The South Korean claim on the Liancourt Rocks rests on several planks. ROK’s continuous physical control of the small island group (62 years to date), whilst not definitive per se, is a strong card in Seoul’s hand. Another plank is the contiguity/closest proximity argument. The disputed islets are closer to recognised sovereign territory of Korea than they are to the nearest recognised sovereign territory … the Liancourts are 157km from Japan’s Oki Islands but only 87.4km from the closest part of South Korea, the island of Ulleung-do. Further strengthening this fact is that Korean scholars have long considered Dok-do to an appendage or “little sister” of the larger Ulleung-do island[14]. That Dok-do can be seen “from Ulleung-do on a clear autumn day, reinforces the linkage”[15].

Jon M Van Dyke, an American international law expert, has argued that the superiority of ROK’s claims to the disputed islands over those of Japan, are such that if Seoul were to agree to take the matter to the ICJ (a path Tokyo has sought for the last 60-plus years!), the Court would almost certainly, based on other historical decisions handed down on international territorial disputes, decide in ROK’s favour. This of course is a big ‘if’ as South Korea has hitherto shown not the slightest sign of willingness to contemplate going this route, and would view this probably as an unnecessary risk. Seoul’s view has unwaveringly been that the dispute is a political one, not a legal one[16].

Van Dyke has pinpointed several weaknesses in Japan’s claim on the disputed territory vis-vís ROK’s. In contrast to Korea’s current possession of Dok-do/Takeshima, Japan’s long period of control of the islets (1905-45) does not advance its current claim – being tainted because it was “wrongful occupation”, illegitimately achieved by force. Van Dyke also notes that Japan has not pressed the question of the viability of its sovereignty prior to 1905, which perhaps could be viewed as an implicit admission by Tokyo of the weaknesses of its pre-20th century claims[17].

Van Dyke further discounts the Japan contention based on the grounds of Terra Nullius. For purposes of tax collection and security Korea at one point implemented a “vacant islands policy” in respect of Dok-do but this was revoked in 1881 and the islets’ population built up again to at least 1,000 by 1890[18]. Van Dyke makes the point that Korea’s minimal occupancy of the islets in the period before and after Japan’s subjugation of Korea is sufficient to establish a valid controlling presence on the part of Korea[19].

Like many of the long-standing island disputes in the region, Takeshima versus Dok-do is a stalemate with no obvious signs of a way forward as long as both sides maintain an entrenched, even intransigent viewpoint. As noted above, Japan and South Korea, fortunately, value their close bilateral relationship which hopefully will ensure that the dispute never escalates to a dangerous level (so far the fall-out has been restricted to a few minor incidents between coast guard vessels and fishing boats)[20]. The status quo suits South Korea as the territorial possessor … Japan, given it has the weaker hand, is unlikely to press the matter beyond a continuation of the symbolic show of discontent, a periodical “drum-beating” of the issue.

⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹⊹

❈ Japan-Korea disputation in this stretch of water is rife, being restricted not just to the Liancourt islands themselves – the very name of the sea is a source of disagreement … Japan calls the body of water the “Sea of Japan” (no surprise!), both Koreas conversely call it Donghae (the “East Sea”)
♰ the east islet is known as Dongdu (Korean name) or Higashijima (Japanese name) and the west islet is called Seodu (Korean) or Nishijima (Japanese)
回 a less common name for the islets is the “Hornet Islands”. The coordinates of the Liancourt islets are 131˚52’22″N 37˚14’24″E

⊶ ⊷ ⊸ ⊶ ⊷ ⊸ ⊶ ⊷ ⊸ ⊶ ⊷ ⊸ ⊶ ⊷ ⊶

[1] ‘Liancourt Rocks dispute’, Wikipedia, http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liancourt-Rocks-dispute; ‘A Visual Study of Dokdo and Ancient Territorial Perceptions’, (“Historical Facts about Korea’s Dokdo Islands), www Dokdo-Takeshima.com
[2] Japan dispute that this included Takeshima/Dok-do, Justin McCurry, ‘Rocky relations between Japan and South Korea over disputed islands’, The Guardian, (London), 18-Jul 2010
[3] interestingly, the British proposal (suggested to it by NZ), that Japan’s territory and sovereign waters be determined by latitude and longitude, may have resolved the issue at that time, ‘The United States’ Involvement with Dokdo Iskand (Liancourt Rocks): A Timeline of the Occupation and Korean War Era’, (Mark S Lovmo, 2004), www.dokdo-research.com
[4] Korea maintains two families on the islets year round with seasonal stays by fishermen from the mainland, ‘A Visual Study of Dokdo and Ancient Territorial Perceptions’, (Historical Facts about Korea’s Dokdo Islands), www.dokdo-takeshima.com; ‘Liancourt Islands/Takeshima/Tokdo’, Global Security, www.GlobalSecurity.org
[5] D-J Park & D Chubb, ‘Why Dokdo Matters to Korea’, The Diplomat, (17-Aug 2011, www.thediplomat.com; ‘Liancourt Rocks dispute’, op.cit.
[6] ibid.
[7] ‘N. Korea denounces Japan’s vow to visit island near Dokdo’, Yonhap News Agency, 30-Jul 2011, www.english.yonhapnews.co.kr
[8] Lovmo, op.cit.
[9] Sean Fern, ‘Tokdo or Takeshima? The International Law of Territorial Acquisition in the Japan-Korea International Dispute’, SJEAA, 5(1), Winter 2005
[10] ‘Liancourt Islands/Takeshima/Tokdo’, op.cit.
[11] significantly though, the 1965 Treaty did not mention the disputed islets, Fern, op.cit.
[12] ‘Takeshima: Japan’s Territory’, (Takeshima Information Leaflet), www.pref.shimane.lg.jp
[13] ‘A Visual Study of Dokdo’, op.cit.
[14] moreover, even in the pre-motorised era of vessels, Dok-do was within two days sailing distance of the Korean mainland, ibid.
[15] Jon M Van Dyke, ‘Legal Issues Relating to Sovereignty over Dokdo and its Maritime Boundary’, Ocean Development and International Law, 38 (2007), www.jonvandyke-doc.pdf
[16] were the matter to go before The Hague, vital errors in judgement made by Japan would hamper its bid for ownership, eg, its failure to raise the islands dispute in the 1960s negotiations over the Basic Relations Treaty was a serious omission on Japan’s part, strategically it needed to keep the issue in the international spotlight. In the event of a resolution a likely outcome would see the maritime boundary drawn equidistance between Ulleung-do and the Oki Islands, as such confirming that Liancourt Rocks falls within the South Korean sphere, ibid
[17] indeed, from Japanese sources alone, significant parts of the early evidence appear to contradict the Japanese viewpoint, eg, maps drawn by Japanese cartographers seem to concede the point that Dok-do belongs to Korea. In a similar vein, the 1877 decree by the Daijō-kan (the Japanese Great Council) stating that Liancourt Rocks are not part of Japan, is a persuasive factor in weakening Japanese claims, ibid
[18] Kiran Kim, ‘Dokdo or Takeshima?’ CLA Journal, 2 (2014), www.uca.edu
[19] especially when one takes into consideration how remote, difficult to access and basically ‘uninhabitable’ Dok-do/Takeshima is, Van Dyke, op.cit.
[20] Fern, op.cit.

That Other China Sea Islands Dispute

International Relations, Politics, Regional History

The long-running South China Sea island dispute involving several Southeast Asian states❈ has demanded much of the world news attention recently. In July the International Court of The Hague rejected the territorial claims of the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC), a judicial decision which the PRC, predictably, refused to recognise. Not far from the location of this seemingly intractable international dispute is another long-running dispute with marked similarities in the East China Sea, involving two of the South China Sea players, China and Taiwan (ROC), along with Japan.

Proximity to disputing parties
Proximity to disputing parties
This dispute is over a small, remote group of uninhibited islands (comprising five islets and three rocks), known variously as the Senkaku Islands回 (Japan), Diàoyú Islands (PRC) or the Pinnacle Islands (ROC). After the Empire of Japan’s defeat in WWII the Senkakus were administered by the US until 1972 as part of the Ryukyus Islands. In that year the Senkaku Islands were returned to Japan under the Okinawa Reversion Agreement.

From the early 1970s interest in the Senkakus by outside parties started to be shown. According to Japan, it surveyed the Islands in 1885 and found them uninhibited, and so incorporated them into Japan under the doctrine of terra nullius[1]. Japan affirms this to be the legal title for it’s “valid control” (to use the government’s term) of the Senkaku Islands. Despite this both the PRC and the ROC lodged claims to the islands in 1971. Their interest in such a collection of sparse and barren rocks seems to be linked to the ECAFE (UN Economic Commission for Asia and Far East) report in 1968 which identified the possibility of oil reserves in the area (although in the longer term ROC’s interest in the Pinnacle Islands (Senkakus) seems primarily to do with the Sea’s rich fishing harvest).

China’s (and Taiwan’s) claims for territorial sovereignty rest on a historical argument. PRC views the islands as part of its traditional fishing grounds, administered through the historic Chinese province of Taiwan. Beijing additionally has argued that the Senkaku/Diàoyú Islands were integral to China’s coastal defences against Japanese pirates during the Ming Dynasty (14th-17th centuries). China’s claim also contends that Japan ‘stole’ its sovereignty over the Islands by annexing them in the aftermath of the (First) Sino-Japanese War in 1894-95[2].

Japan, for its part, expressed cynicism over the belatedness of Chinese (and Taiwanese) claims, attributing it to the attraction of the islands as a potential source of oil for China. Access through the East China Sea both to key shipping lanes and to its rich fishing grounds was also noted[3]. These by-products of course were equally-attractive motives to Japan for holding on to the Senkakus.

Successive Japanese governments have rebuffed the Chinese contention that the islands should have been handed over to it after WWII in accordance with the 1943 Cairo Agreement and the 1945 Potsdam Agreement. These agreements decreed that Japan would forfeit territories, eg, Formosa (Taiwan) and Pescadores Islands (Penghu), acquired by Japanese imperial aggression, but Japan has argued that the Senkaku Islands were not mentioned in these documents, not part of Formosa and therefore were not intended to be included under its terms[4].

imageWith no ground being given by either country, the Senkakus conflict simmered on the back-burner for several decades, however in the 2010s the dispute has heated up again. China in particularly has taken a more proactive and aggressive stance. It has directed an increasing number of it’s vessels – both commercial and naval – into the territorial zone claimed by Japan (Taiwan also has launched protest vessels against the Japanese). In 2010 a Chinese fishing boat collided with two Japanese vessels off the islands – resulting in a serious diplomatic issue and a protracted stand-off between Beijing and Tokyo. In 2013 China provocatively declared an Aerial Defence Identification Zone in the vicinity of the islands (ADIZ)[5].

Japan has countered with some provocations of its own. The right-wing Toyko governor, Ishihara, moved to use public funds to purchase the Senkaku Islands from their private owner in 2012, prompting the Japanese government to step in and acquire (ie, effectively to nationalise) three of the islands as a damage control measure. An unmollified China reacted by sailing its government ships including coastguard vessels through Japanese-claimed territorial waters. In 2014 it was announced that students in Japanese classrooms would be taught that the Senkaku Islands are Japanese territories – further angering Beijing[6].

Amrita Jash has attributed China’s combativeness on the Senkaku issue to more than the pursuit of economic interests and maritime security, pinpointing the “emotional significance” to PRC of Diàoyú Tai. Jash argues that the depth of China’s nationalist passions over the islands has its genesis in memories of the humiliation and inferiority felt by the Chinese during the period of Japanese occupation (1930s-40s) which evinced a sort of “victim identity” for China. Such hyper-intense feelings fed by historical insecurity are seen by Jash as currently driving a ‘hawkish’ foreign policy against Japan[7].

The role of the United States in the dispute?
PRC’s perception is that the US sides with the Japanese position over the Senkakus/Diàoyús. The reality of this was made unequivocally clear to Beijing during Barack Obama’s 2014 trip to Japan when the President assured his Japanese hosts that the islands dispute fell “within the scope of Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan security treaty” … (and that) “we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands”. China duly protested, labelling the US-Japan accord “a bilateral arrangement from the Cold War”[8].

Chinese escalation of the conflict and possible long-term outcomes?
In the event of PRC gaining control of the disputed territories a number of threats to each of the players could materialise:

⌲ to Taiwan the idea of Beijing controlling the islands so close to Taiwan (170km to the north) is a worrying geo-strategic prospect, ie, as a Chinese invasion route to recapture Taiwan which Beijing still denies legitimacy to and considers to be a rightful province of mainland China. More immediately important to Taiwan is the concern that Chinese control would deprive it of vital fishing grounds

⌲ to Japan the threat from commercial effects (loss of fishing waters, blocking of trade routes, exclusion from potential oil fields) is very significant, but probably even more concerning to it is the security implications (PRC using the strategically-positioned islands for a military build-up)◑

⌲ the US is not directly part of the disputants but Washington is cognisant of the inherent risk to it from China gaining a dominant hold over the East China Sea, eg, it could in a future, Pacific power play scenario block US fleet activities in the area[9]

8 tiny rocky islets in the middle of a political storm!
8 tiny rocky islets in the middle of a political storm!
With international concern over rising tensions in the East China Sea and the stalemate between China and Japan, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has been suggested as an approach to a solution. Japan, in possession of the disputed territory, would not need to take the initiative, whereas PRC (along with ROC) have the motivation to do so. But China’s recent refusal to accept the ICJ ruling over the South China Sea issue (and having as it appears the weaker case in the Senkaku/Diàoyú dispute), recourse to the ICJ would likely see PRC again reject it’s findings and we would be no closer to a resolution of the matter[10].

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❈ China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei – all with overlapping or related territorial claims in the sea involving the Paracels Islands, the Spratly Islands, the Pratas Islands and Scarborough Shoal, as well as various disputes over the maritime boundaries of each state
回 Uotsuri-shíma (coordinates: 25˚46’N 123˚31’E) at a mere 4.3 square metres in size is the largest of the islands
◑ a measure of how seriously Tokyo takes the threat from China on this and other contemporary conflicts between the two Asian powerhouses is the record defence budget approved by Prime Minister Abe’s government in late 2015 – US$41.4B
China’s lack of good evidence of historic occupation of the disputed island group seriously undermines its case vis-à-vis Japan

[1] from time to time since 1895 the islands have been populated by Japan and used to harvest albatross feathers and process dried bonito, Tadeshi Ikeda, ‘Getting Senkaku History Right’, The Diplomat, 26-Nov 2013, www.thediplomat.com
2] A Jash, ‘Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute: identity versus territory’, (11-Jan 2016), www.policyforum.net; S Roy-Chaudhury, ‘The Senkaku Islands Dispute’, International Policy Digest, 1-Aug 2016, www.intpolicydigest.org
[3] ‘How uninhibited islands soured China-Japan ties’, BBC News, 10-Nov 2014, www.bbc.com
[4] ‘The Senkaku Islands’, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, www.mofa.go.jp
[5] BBC News, ibid.
[6] ibid.; Justin McCurry, ‘Japan: teachers to call Senkaku and Takeshima islands Japanese territory’, The Guardian, 29-Jan 2014
[7] Jash, op.cit.
[8] Ankit Panda, ‘Obama: Senkakus Covered Under US-Japan Security Treaty’, The Diplomat,, 24-Apr 2014, www.thediplomat.com
[9] Roy-Chaudhury, op.cit.
[10] Ikeda, op.cit.

Visit to a Sandy Malldom II: A Bedouin Day Pass with Bonus 4WD Camels

Society & Culture, Travel

On our last day in the United Arab Emirates our tour guide took us on an afternoon drive for a spot of dune-buggy “rally driving” in the sandhills. Well, that was the pretext for the decision to first head for the hinter-hills … desert dwellers with SUVs?

Desert City
Desert City
Actually, when we got to the designer desert track we spent an hour or so hot-footing it up-and-down in 4WD land rovers. The first time our Emirati driver drove over the edge of a steep ‘wave’ of sand and the vehicle dropped straight down, it did feel pretty ‘hairy’ … but it was all quite safe as the 4WDs were equipped with roll bars and the drivers kept completing the same circuit countless times till we got rather bored with it. We then stopped on a sand ridge and admired the sunset for a while.

After the desert romp we went to a camel park and Bedouin fort camp … I wondered if this was a “fair dinkum” Bedouin encampment or if it had been slightly sanitised or ‘Disneyfied’ for tourists. Seeing the old wooden walls of the fortification though, did manage to conjure up a sense of the Beau Gestes for me!

Those visitors that didn’t want to do the camel ride (speaking personally, I had sated my taste for camel rides striding atop a collection of even-toed ungulates in Egypt previously), went for a combined dinner and show. The eating conditions were pretty rudimentary (one tick for authenticity at least!) – we were seated on large sand-filled cushions which were resting on ancient-looking strips of carpet bleached dry of colour by endless exposure to the harsh sun … however I would concede that the meal was quite good (falafel & kebab roll) except for the rather tasteless penne.

The show itself was only of short duration – the main part was a bearded male dancer in a colourful, traditional costume, a Arab tunic and a sort of umbrella dress (come to think of it he looked a bit like Max Klinger from Mash, or at least he seemed to share the TV character’s wardrobe tastes!).

The dancer twirled around in circles – in one direction – ever more frenetically. He did this for so long I thought he would surely have to unwind in the opposite direction for the equivalent amount of time before he would be able to regain his balance! … but he was OK. Halfway through his twirling performance his whole outfit lit up like New Year’s Eve … at this point for some reason, randomly, the idea of suicide bombers came into my mind – maybe it was the way he was self-activating the light show (ie, himself) by repeatedly flicking a switch on and off! Fortunately for all the show ended peacefully and we eventually returned to our more comfortable beds in the hotel.

Tourist Town
Tourist Town

International bragging rights!
International bragging rights!

Visit to a Sandy Malldom I: Showcasing all the Trappings of Modernity and Conspicuous Wealth

Regional History, Travel

Upon arriving at our Dubai hotel, the Mecure Gold, I tried to exchange some of my money for the local currency, but I couldn’t interest the next-door Islamic Bank on Al Mina Rd in my AUDs. They directed me to another bank “five minutes” down the street but after walking for more that five minutes in the extreme midday heat and not spotting any banking establishments lurking amongst the sand, I gave up, retreating back to the hotel and decided to wait till later in the day when we made the trip into Downtown Dubai.

Mall & Burj
Mall & Burj
At the supersize Dubai Mall we found a money exchanger just inside the entrance. The woman inside the glass booth thinking I was trying to change USDs at first offered me AED2.63 to the $ but when I clarified that I had AUDs she offered 2.65 (to my surprise!). I gratefully and swiftly accepted lest she realise her error (a very rare victory over the money changers!). Equipped with my enhanced sum of dirhams I found we could only shop, not eat or drink (alcohol) in public, ie the Mall was public … Ramadan was still going on!

Dubai Mall or “Sandy Malldom” (an apt metaphor for all of Dubai), is a massive place, numerous elongated passageways crisscrossing each other all over. The Mall is a tourist epicentre of course – “The Diver” waterfall fountains, an Airbus simulator, Arab-themed village, etc. The thing that gets most attention though in the Mall (unless you’re a terminal shopaholic) is the Aquarium. Interestingly one side of the Aquarium is fully visible from outside through a huge glass wall facing the passageways on several levels … so you don’t actually need to pay and go inside to see unless you want to experience the special features – eg, tank dive with the sharks, etc.

All manner of piscean life can be viewed from the transparent wall – sharks, hammer-heads, stingrays and multifarious smaller fish. We saw scuba divers swimming among the sea creatures, cleaning the gigantic pool with long blue hoses. The neoprene-clad divers were getting unnerving dead-eye stares from the sharks. Hopefully for their sake the human “Creepy-crawleys” do their work AFTER the members of the lamniade family have been fed!

Whilst we were in Downtown Dubai we plunged into high tourism mode by taking in the obligatory Burj (Tower) Khalifa, at 829m (give or take a half-metre) the world’s highest skyscraper/human-made structure.

We did the standard thing, paid to go up to the Observation Deck, Level 124. If you want a higher view you can go up to the top viewing deck at Level 148 (out of 163 levels all up) – which will cost you about AED350.

But level 124 was high enough for us, the view from there was like looking at a space age city – vast modern buildings and vast intersecting arterial freeways, surrounded by an ocean of sand – made to look all the more Sci-Fi by a constant haze circling around the periphery. The waterworks of the Dubai Fountain was a spectacular hydro-sight from above. Back on ground level the Burj has an interesting info display on the history of the building’s construction, charting it stage-by-stage and metre-by-metre.

D. Museum
D. Museum
This small museum is a former fort (Al Fahidi), which was founded in 1787 and is the oldest surviving building in Dubai. I especially liked the various exhibits, dioramas depicting everyday life in the desert … mannequins of artisans, merchants & vendors at work. The series of black-and-white period pictures from the 1930s onwards, are a good indicator of how Dubai has grown & developed since its days as a modest village settlement.

The fort is square-shaped & towered, in the open courtyard are some aged cannons and a summer hut composed of palm fronds (known as an Arish). On display both outside and inside the walls are dhows (traditional boats). The museum provides a good grab of local history amidst all the newness of Dubai.

The fort-cum-museum is very close to the city’s principal waterway, Dubai Khor (or Dubai Creek). We went on a traditional water taxi (abra) ride on the Creek … more of the old contrasting with the new! From near the fort we churned over to another part of the city (historically the creek has been viewed as splitting Dubai into two section – Deira and Bur).

imageOn a conservation note for Dubai, the end of the creek has a waterbird and wildlife sanctuary. The abra is a pretty basic, old form of watercraft but it got us across the creek reasonably quickly so we could spend plenty of time visiting the network of street and arcade vendors alongside the creek.

The City’s Back-story:
Sheikhs from the Al Maktoum Dynasty (hailing from the dominant Bani Yas clan), have ruled Dubai since 1833, taking the title of Emir of Dubai. Before 1971 Dubai was part of the Trucial (treaty) States, a group of Arab Gulf states under a British Protectorate (governed via British India). Unlike other parts of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai was late in discovering its oil bonanza (1966), but on the back of it, the city since that time has transformed itself into a economic powerhouse❈ and a model of modernisation, if not exactly liberalism.

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❈ according to Business Insider Australia, UAE is the third richest country in the world with a GDP per capita of $57,744

Three European Colonies Down Under that Never Happened: Nieuw Holland, Nouvelle-Hollande and Nya Sverige

Regional History

Logo of the VOC
Logo of the VOC
The earliest European explorers of Australasia (Australia and New Zealand) seem to have been the Dutch¹. History records a host of Dutch mariners and navigators, in the service of the VOC (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie), the Dutch East India Company, who voyaged to the unknown southland known as New Holland and explored parts of it during the 17th century❈.

Nouvelle Hollande on a 1681 globe of world
Nouvelle Hollande on a 1681 globe of world
The multiple presence of Dutch seafarers in the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere in the 17th century is reflected in the maps of early cartographers, especially in the nomenclature. New Zealand derived its name from the province of Zeeland in Holland, in Latin Nova Zeelandia, Dutch, Nieuw Zeeland, (‘Zeeland’ was later modified to ‘Zeland’ and then finally to ‘Zealand’). Nomenclature in Australia has distinct associations with the Netherlands – the continent was previously known as “New Holland” (Lat: Hollandia Nova, Dut: Nieuw Holland); Both Tasmania’s present name and its previous name (Van Diemen’s Land) bear the mark of Dutch exploration回.

Willem Janszoon’s venture to the eastern side of Australia (today’s North Queensland) to search out new trading outlets did not yield any success on this count. Moreover Janszoon found the land swampy and the indigenous people inhospitable and threatening². Although many Dutch explorers visited the West Australian coast in the two centuries after the first Hartog expedition in 1606, there was no real attempt by the Netherlands to establish a colony in New Holland. The Dutch were deterred by the poor prospects (as they saw them) for farming, eg, apparent lack of water and fertile soil. Ultimately though, the crucial factor in dissuading the Dutch from launching into colonising or settling part of New Holland was the (apparent) complete absence of trade in the land³.

Could there have been impromptu Dutch settlements in Western Australia in the 17th and 18th centuries?
imageIts possible … in this era a number of commercial VOC ships on route to or from Batavia (the East Indies capital) were known to have been wrecked off the western coast of Australia, usually caught up in the treacherous “Roaring 40s” winds (between 40˚ and 50˚ longitude), most famously associated with the Batavia wreck and mutiny in 1629. This has led to conjecture that some survivors (including mutineers) could have settled in the country after integrating into local aboriginal tribes⁴.

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Sweden does not come to mind as a coloniser as readily as some of the more conspicuous imperial powers. But under its ambitious monarch King Gustav III, it embarked on a foray into the colony business in the 1780s. By 1784 it had acquired a colony in the West Indies, Saint-Bathélemy, from France, and was looking further afield. A prospect in West Africa, in Goree, Senegal, was investigated but proved unfeasible. About the same time as Gustav was eyeing off unclaimed parts of the globe, Britain was making plans for its penal colony in Botany Bay. In 1786 the Swedish king engaged William Bolts, a Dutch-born merchant and adventurer with extensive commercial connexions in India, to locate and found a Swedish colony on a suitable island in the “Eastern seas”.

Bolts took his inspiration for the venture from a well-known, early 18th century publication by Jean Pierre Purry, proposing to colonise “the Land of Nuyts”. Purry speculated that a unspecified land with a latitude corresponding to that of New Holland “might contain richer mines of Gold and Silver than Chili (sic), Peru, or Mexico”. Purry advanced the view that a latitude of between 31˚ and 33˚(North or South) was highly propitious for the cultivation of vines, fruits and plants. Purry later put his theory into practice in the eponymous South Carolina township, Purrysburg (32.3˚N)⁵.

Under the terms of Bolts’ convention (contract) with Gustav III he would take possession of the WA island in the name of the Swedish crown. Bolts would be governor for life of the settlement which was to called ‘Boltsholm’. Bolts’ scheme for the Southwest Australian colony was to use it as a base to trade with the Nawab of Sind (now ‘Sindh’ in Pakistan, formerly southwest India) where he would set up a trading factory. Boltsholm would also serve as a place of refreshment for Swedish merchant ships on the way to the East Indies and China. He also envisaged it could become a free port in time of war between European powers whereby Sweden could handsomely profit by trading with both sides. Bolts refused to disclose ‘information’ publicly as to the site’s precise whereabouts, simply saying that the land would be suitable for plantations producing silk, cotton and sugar⁶.

Notwithstanding Bolts’ vagueness as to the island’s location and some of the royal ministers’ financial objections to the plan, Gustav contracted Bolts at a salary of 3,000 Rix dollars per annum plus a share of profits on any minerals or precious stones discovered. Despite this nothing happened for several months until March 1787 when Gustav suddenly postponed the project for a year, concerned at the prospect of a new European war. When war materialised between the Russian and the Turkish empires, Gustav spotted an opportunity to regain lost Baltic territories and invaded Russia. Gustav then postponed the New Holland expedition indefinitely, releasing Bolts from his contract and recompensing him with £250⁷.

King George Sound, WA
King George Sound, WA
Bolts tried to reanimate Swedish interest in the project, reminding the ministry that the English had consummated their plans to establish a settlement in Botany Bay. He also pitched a revised plan for the colony to the King’s chief adviser proposing a joint venture with the Kingdom of Sardinia … but to no avail. Bolts moved on to new (and equally unsuccessful) ventures and the idea of a Swedish colony in New Holland remained unrealised.

    Postscript: Nouvelle-Hollande ?
    A third player in the regional imperial stakes was believed to harbour designs on New Holland as a colony – France. In the 1780s rumours circulated in the US, Britain and elsewhere in Europe, of French intentions in the light of a scientific expedition by the Comte de Lapérouse … to suspicious minds the real reason for the expedition in the south seas was to prepare for a French colony in New Holland (a base in handy reach of the lucrative East Indies trade)⁸. Western Australia remained devoid of European settlements until well into the 19th century. After surveyor Jules de Blosseville reported to the French government on the suitability of south-west WA as a penal colony for France (perceived as a “possible panacea for a number of ills in France at that time”)◑, the Admiralty in Whitehall instructed the New South Wales governor (Brisbane) to establish an outpost, Fredericktown (Albany) in King George Sound in 1826. The perceived threat from France saw the British consolidate its hold on the West by establishing a permanent settlement on the Swan River (Swan River Colony later Perth) in 1829⁹.

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The VOC routes to the East Indies
The VOC routes to the East Indies
❈ Australians and New Zealanders are familiar with the names Dirk Hartog (Dirck Hatichs), Abel Tasman and Antonio van Diemens, but probably less conversant with that of Willem Janszoon, Hendrik Brouwer, Frederik de Houtman, Frans Thijsz (or Thijssen) and Willem de Vlamingh
回 many different names have been attributed (or misattributed) to Australia – the Great Southern Land, Terra Australis (or Terra Australis Incognita), New Holland. Sweden referred to it as ‘Ulimaroa’ (corrupted from a Maori word). Late 16th century Flemish and Dutch mapmakers confused ‘Beach’ or ‘Boeach’ (to identify the northernmost land of Australia) with Marco Polo’s gold-rich ‘Locach’, a term Polo used to refer to the southern Thai kingdom. The Travels spoke of a southern land to the south of Java called La Grande isle de Java, (or Jave la Grand) which Polo described as “the largest island in the world”, providing inspiration for later explorers of New Holland. A Spanish expedition led by de Queirós landed in the New Hebrides (today Vanuata) in 1606, thinking it to be the southern continent, named the land “Australia del Eśpiritu Santo” in honour of the Spanish queen. The same year Hartog exploring the Australian west coast named it “Eendrachtsland” (after his ship!). Frans Thijsz on exploring the southwestern part of the mainland (near Cape Leeuwin in WA) named the continent “Land Van Pieter Nuyts” (AKA “Land of Nights”). Janszoon, first known European to see the Australian mainland, chartered 320km of the coastline in the Gulf of Carpentaria, naming the land “Nieu Zeland”, fortunately the name was not adopted and later applied by Abel Tasman to the two islands across the sea from Australia. New Zealand echoed some of the misapprehensions surrounding Australia’s early discoveries – Tasman on finding the South Island of NZ originally called it “Staten Landt” because he was under the misunderstanding that the island was connected to Staten Island at the southern tip of Argentina! ‘European exploration of Australia’, (Wiki), https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/european-exploration-of-australia; ‘Abel Tasman’, (Wiki), https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/abel-tasman
there had been an earlier Svenska kolonier phase (1638-63) with colonies in West Africa (Swedish Gold Coast) and Delaware (New Sweden)
◑ France eventually established its version of Botany Bay in the region – a combination of penal and settler colony – in New Caledonia in 1853

¹ although over the years several other rival claimants have been advanced as the first foreign visitors to stumble upon the continent, including the Portuguese and the Chinese, see KC McIntyre, The Secret Discovery of Australia: Portuguese discoveries 20 years before Captain Cook; G Menzies, 1421: The year China discovered the world
² Janszoon somehow missed the straits which separate the Australian mainland from New Guinea, unlike the Galician and Portuguese mariner Torres a few months later (today known as the Torres Straits). Dutch cartographers, relying on Janszoon’s reports, for decades after erroneously drew maps showing New Guinea and Australia as a one great land mass, ‘Willem Janszoon’, (Wiki), https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/willem-janszoon
³ The main focus of Janszoon, Tasman and other Dutch explorers was mercantile, finding tradeable commodities within the Australian continent, ‘Janszoon’, ibid.;’Dutch Origins: The Part played by the Dutch in Western Australia’, www.indigitrax.org.au
⁴ ‘Dutch Origins’, ibid. Blood group correlation of members of the WA Amangu tribe with Leyden in Holland add weight to these arguments, ‘Batavia’, (Wiki), https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/batavia
⁵ Lands of true and certain beauty: the geographical theories and colonization strategies of Jean Pierre Purry, JP Purry / AC Migliazzo; Robert J King, ‘Jean Pierre Purry’s proposal to colonize the Land of Nuyts’, (Apr-2008), www.australianonthemap.org.au
⁶ RJ King, ‘Gustav III’s Australian Colony’, The Great Circle,(online), Vol 27, No 2 (2005)
ibid
ibid
⁹ LR Marchant, ‘Blosseville, Jules Poret de (1802–1833)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/blosseville-jules-poret-de-1799/text2041, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 31 August 2016.

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