There are in Asia a number of marginal seas and chokepoints. They control sea communications from the Bering Sea to Malaysia.
To the north there are the Aleutian Islands. Then there is the Sea of Okhotsk which is blocked by the Kamchatka peninsula and the Kurile Islands.
These latter islands are presently Russian but this is disputed by Japan. The main islands of the chain to the south are Etorofu, Kunashiri and Shikotan and the Habomai group (respectively 3,139, 1,500, 255 and 102 square kilometers). An 1855 treaty (Simoda treaty) confirmed that the Kuriles south of and including Etoforu were Japanese. Until 1875 (St Petersburg treaty) the large Sakhalin Island close to the Asian mainland was claimed by Japan. Russia insists that the 1855 and 1875 treaties are no longer valid.
After the Second World War Japan signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty. According to Russia Japan then gave up its claim to the Kurile islands. Japan insists that this treaty was not signed by the Soviet Union, so claims cannot be pursued related to the San Francisco Peace Treaty.
In 1956 the Soviet Union agreed to return Shikotan and the Habomais to Japan, but not until all foreign troops in Japan had been removed. The Kuriles remain in Russian hands but the conflict continues. The islands control the movements of the Russian Pacific Fleet and there are productive fishing grounds nearby.
Further south the coast of mainland China along the East China Sea and the South China Sea there is a blockage by the Ryukyu Islands, the Senkaku Islands, Taiwan, the Pescadore Islands, the Philippine Islands, Borneo, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
The Ryukyu Islands form a long chain dividing the East China Sea from the Pacific Ocean. The area is 2,246 square kilometers. The main island is Okinawa.
The Senkaku Islands (Chinese Tiaoyu or Tiao Yu Tai Islands are west of Okinawa and north of Taiwan. It is a small group of five islands and are uninhabited.
The Pescadores Islands belong to Taiwan and are situated between Taiwan and China. It has 64 islands and the area is 141 square kilometers.
Already during the Cold War (the 1957 work Principles of Political Geography, six contributors) Professor Hans Weigert at Georgetown University in the United States pointed out the relevance of the geographical features of the coast of East Asia. The present aggression of China in the South China Sea has once more focused the interest of geopoliticians on the East Asia coastline.
Hans Weigert (1902 – 1983) was a German lawyer who escaped to the United States in 1938. He was a teacher at several colleges and universities. In 1942 he published a book on German geopolitics (“Generals and Geographers: The Twilight of Geopolitics”) He also edited a symposium on geopolitics entitled (“Compass of the World”) in 1944. After the Second World War Weigert served with the U.S. military government and High Commission in Germany.
The main sea powers needed to maintain bases along the East Asian coast during the Cold War for containment purposes. If great powers like China and Russia in the 21st century can breach this chain of bases it would be a grave threat to the democracies of Asia
The chokepoints connecting the Indian and Pacific Oceans are further of great importance: Strait of Malacca, the Sunda Strait, the Singapore Strait, the San Bernardino Strait, the Surigao Strait, the Lombok and Macassar Straits, and the Torres Strait. Weigert called these narrow passageways “strategic waterways” and “maritime highways.” As Weigert wrote in 1957, “Geography endows with great advantages powers whose naval strength, supported by air bases, controls the marginal seas and narrow passageways, as long as this control is not challenged successfully by naval and air power based on the Eurasian Heartland or rim lands under its control.”
Chinese foreign policy today indicates that this great power is beginning to challenge the position of the alliance of Pacific states lead by the United States. It wants to become both a land- and seapower in the Asia-Pacific region. It is a sign that the next great power struggle will occurin the twentyfirst century. It will most likely be between the aggressive main landpowers China and Russia against the sea power United States with such allies as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines.
Comment: Geopolitician Francis P. Sempa on June 9, 2015, in The Diplomat Magazine published the article “Hans Weigert and Asia-Pacific Balancing”.