Les intérêts fondamentaux croissants de la Chine

TOKYO – La Chine est aujourd’hui en conflit avec les Philippines à propos du récif de Scarborough et avec le Japon à propos des îles Senkaku, tous deux situés bien au-delà de la limite de 200 milles marins des eaux territoriales chinoises en mer de Chine méridionale. À vrai dire, les revendications de la Chine sont aujourd’hui tellement étendues que de nombreux Asiatiques se demandent ce qui pourrait bien satisfaire le désir de la Chine de garantir ses « intérêts fondamentaux ». N’y a-t-il aucune limite, ou la Chine se perçoit-elle à nouveau comme l’Empire du Milieu devant lequel le monde entier doit s’incliner ?

Jusqu’à présent, la Chine a formellement mentionné Taïwan, le Tibet et la province du Xinjiang comme faisant partie de ses« intérêts fondamentaux », des termes qui évoquent de façon péremptoire les notions de souveraineté nationale et d’intégrité territoriale. La Chine tente aujourd’hui d’appliquer les mêmes termes aux îles Senkaku et s’approche dangereusement du moment où cette revendication s’appliquera à l’ensemble de la mer de Chine méridionale ; en fait certains gradés chinois l’ont déjà fait.

Les îles Senkaku, situées à l’ouest d’Okinawa dans la mer de Chine orientale et aujourd’hui inhabitées, ont été rattachées au Japon par le gouvernement Meiji en 1895. Elles ont brièvement été occupées par les employés d’une entreprise de pêche de bonites. En 1969, la Commission économique pour l'Asie et l'Extrême-Orient des Nations Unies (CESAP) a effectué un relevé topographique des fonds marins de la mer de Chine orientale et a conclu à la présence possible de vastes gisements de minéraux, dont des réserves importantes d’hydrocarbures près des îles Senkaku. Deux ans s’écoulèrent avant que Taïwan et la Chine revendiquent chacun l’archipel, en 1971, mais la position du gouvernement japonais a toujours été que sa souveraineté ne faisait aucun doute.

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