Japan readies huge island war games amid YouTube PR push – Senkaku islands / Diaoyus ( Major Escalation )

By Shigemi Sato

National Oct. 24, 2013 – 05:20PM JST


Destroyers, fighter jets and 34,000 troops will take part in a huge exercise aimed at bolstering Japan’s ability to protect its remote islands, the government said Thursday, amid a territorial dispute with China.

The war games, which will include live-firing, come as Tokyo steps up its global PR campaign by posting online videos it hopes will swing world opinion behind its claims to two archipelagos that are disputed with China and South Korea.

The air-sea-land drill from November 1-18 will involve amphibious landings on the uninhabited atoll of Okidaitojima, 400 kilometers southeast of the main Okinawan island, a defense ministry official said.

Live-fire exercises involving destroyers and F-2 fighter jets will also be conducted, he said.

The island is a considerable distance from the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, which China also claims as the Diaoyus.

However, defense force chiefs are considering deploying short-range land-to-sea missiles on the island of Ishigaki, which lies 150 kilometers from the disputed islands, the Asahi and Fuji TV networks said. Both broadcasters said there were no plans to fire weaponry there.

Chinese state-owned ships have sparred with Japanese coastguard boats repeatedly in waters around the Senkakus since Tokyo nationalised three islands in the chain last year.

Beijing’s boats have frequently been warned off after sailing into waters Japan considers its preserve.

Fighter jets and warships from both sides have also been in the area on numerous occasions, leading some observers to warn of the danger of an armed conflict that could draw in the United States and have disastrous consequences for the region.

November’s drill is aimed at “maintaining and improving the joint operational abilities of the Self-Defense Forces in armed-attack situations”, the Self Defense Forces joint staff said in a statement.

It will feature “a series of actions in defending islands” including joint operations in island landings, it said.

There have been similar drills in the past, including one in November 2011 that involved 35,000 troops.

In November last year, U.S. and Japanese forces held a joint drill involving 47,400 troops, the vast bulk from the Japanese side. But they reportedly cancelled an exercise to re-take a remote island in a bid to avoid irritating China.

Since Shinzo Abe became prime minister in December, however, Japan has taken a more robust stance.

In its latest volley, the foreign ministry has produced two 90-second videos stating its case for ownership of the two disputed island groups and posted them on its YouTube site.

Both videos are currently only in Japanese, but the ministry plans to provide versions in 10 other languages including Chinese and Korean.

“We are also preparing three other short movies on the Senkaku islands and one on the issue of Takeshima,” a ministry spokesman told AFP, referring to a pair of islets that South Korea controls as Dokdo.

“The new ones will be just 30 seconds in length and we hope they will be watched by smartphone and tablet users.”

The ministry has earmarked 120 million yen this fiscal year for the films and creating a YouTube channel, he said.

“It is important that the international community obtain correct understanding over situations surrounding Japan including territories,” he said.

Beijing and Seoul reacted angrily to the move, with Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying repeating the assertion that the East China Sea islands belong to Beijing.

“Whatever propaganda tools Japan employs to support its illegal claim, it will not change the fact that the Diaoyu Islands belong to China,” she said.

“We strongly urge the Japanese side to correct its attitude, stop all provocative words and actions and make concrete efforts for the proper management and resolution of the question of the Diaoyu Islands.”

South Korea lodged a formal protest over the video, calling in a senior Japanese embassy official to register disapproval on Wednesday.

Foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-Young said the protest noted the Japanese government’s attempt “to undermine our sovereignty over Dokdo by spreading groundless claims over the internet”.

Japan’s latest move, officials say, is in part a reaction to advertising efforts by China.

Two-page color ads saying “Diaoyu islands belong to China” appeared in the New York Times and the Washington Post last year.

(C) 2013 AFP



China to survey islands disputed with Japan

Jan 15, 2013 11:17 Moscow Time

Острова Сенкаку в китайской картографии – Дяоюйдао

Photo: EPA


China is to carry out a geographical survey of islands in the East China Sea at the centre of a bitter dispute with Japan.

The survey of the Diaoyu islands was part of a programme to map China’s “territorial islands and reefs”, Xinhua said, citing a state geographical agency. They are known as the Senkaku in Japan, which controls them.

Voice of Russia, Xinhua, AFP



“Regarding Senkaku, there is no change to my position to resolutely protect this water and territory. There is no room for negotiation on this,”

Japan PM criticises targeting of firms in China row

AFP Friday, Jan 11, 2013

TOKYO – China was “wrong” to deliberately target Japanese business interests as part of a state campaign in a row over disputed territory, Japan’s hawkish new prime minister Shinzo Abe said on Friday.

“For political ends, harming Japanese companies and individuals in China that contribute to the Chinese economy and society – I want to say it is wrong for a responsible nation state in the international community,” Mr Abe said.

“It not only harms bilateral relations, it has a significantly negative influence on China’s economy and its society,” he said at a news conference in the latest barb aimed at China.

Japan’s ties with China have remained tense for months as the two nations repeatedly stage maritime standoffs in waters around disputed isles called the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China.

Chinese government ships have been seen off the disputed islands numerous times since Japan nationalised them in September, sometimes within the 12 nautical mile territorial zone.

A state-owned Chinese plane flew through airspace over the islands early last month. Tokyo responded by scrambling fighter jets and said it was the first time Beijing had breached its airspace since at least 1958.

“Regarding Senkaku, there is no change to my position to resolutely protect this water and territory. There is no room for negotiation on this,” Mr Abe said.



China and Japan step up drone race as tension builds over disputed islands

Both countries claim drones will be used for surveillance, but experts warn of future skirmishes in region’s airspace


China-Japan tensions

The row between China and Japan over the disputed islands – called the Diaoyu by China and the Senkaku by Japan – has escalated recently. Photograph: AP

Drones have taken centre stage in an escalating arms race between China and Japan as they struggle to assert their dominance over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

China is rapidly expanding its nascent drone programme, while Japan has begun preparations to purchase an advanced model from the US. Both sides claim the drones will be used for surveillance, but experts warn the possibility of future drone skirmishes in the region’s airspace is “very high”.

Tensions over the islands – called the Diaoyu by China and the Senkaku by Japan – have ratcheted up in past weeks. Chinese surveillance planes flew near the islands four times in the second half of December, according to Chinese state media, but were chased away each time by Japanese F-15 fighter jets. Neither side has shown any signs of backing down.

Japan’s new conservative administration of Shinzo Abe has placed a priority on countering the perceived Chinese threat to the Senkakus since it won a landslide victory in last month’s general election. Soon after becoming prime minister, Abe ordered a review of Japan’s 2011-16 mid-term defence programme, apparently to speed up the acquisition of between one and three US drones.

Under Abe, a nationalist who wants a bigger international role for the armed forces, Japan is expected to increase defence spending for the first time in 11 years in 2013. The extra cash will be used to increase the number of military personnel and upgrade equipment. The country’s deputy foreign minister, Akitaka Saiki, summoned the Chinese ambassador to Japan on Tuesday to discuss recent “incursions” of Chinese ships into the disputed territory.

China appears unbowed. “Japan has continued to ignore our warnings that their vessels and aircraft have infringed our sovereignty,” top-level marine surveillance official Sun Shuxian said in an interview posted to the State Oceanic Administration’s website, according to Reuters. “This behaviour may result in the further escalation of the situation at sea and has prompted China to pay great attention and vigilance.”

China announced late last month that the People’s Liberation Army was preparing to test-fly a domestically developed drone, which analysts say is likely a clone of the US’s carrier-based X-47B. “Key attack technologies will be tested,” reported the state-owned China Daily, without disclosing further details.

Andrei Chang, editor-in-chief of the Canadian-based Kanwa Defence Review, said China might be attempting to develop drones that can perform reconnaissance missions as far away as Guam, where the US is building a military presence as part of its “Asia Pivot” strategy.

China unveiled eight new models in November at an annual air show on the southern coastal city Zhuhai, photographs of which appeared prominently in the state-owned press. Yet the images may better indicate China’s ambitions than its abilities, according to Chang: “We’ve seen these planes on the ground only — if they work or not, that’s difficult to explain.”

Japanese media reports said the defence ministry hopes to introduce Global Hawk unmanned aircraft near the disputed islands by 2015 at the earliest in an attempt to counter Beijing’s increasingly assertive naval activity in the area.

Chinese surveillance vessels have made repeated intrusions into Japanese waters since the government in Tokyo in effect nationalised the Senkakus in the summer, sparking riots in Chinese cities and damaging trade ties between Asia’s two biggest economies.

The need for Japan to improve its surveillance capability was underlined late last year when Japanese radar failed to pick up a low-flying Chinese aircraft as it flew over the islands.

The Kyodo news agency quoted an unnamed defence ministry official as saying the drones would be used “to counter China’s growing assertiveness at sea, especially when it comes to the Senkaku islands”.

China’s defence budget has exploded over the past decade, from about £12.4bn in 2002 to almost £75bn in 2011, and its military spending could surpass the US’s by 2035. The country’s first aircraft carrier, a refurbished Soviet model called the Liaoning, completed its first sea trials in August.

A 2012 report by the Pentagon acknowledged long-standing rumours that China was developing a new generation of stealth drones, called Anjian, or Dark Sword, whose capabilities could surpass those of the US’s fleet.

China’s state media reported in October that the country would build 11 drone bases along the coastline by 2015. “Over disputed islands, such as the Diaoyu Islands, we do not lag behind in terms of the number of patrol vessels or the frequency of patrolling,” said Senior Colonel Du Wenlong, according to China Radio International. “The problem lies in our surveillance capabilities.”

China’s military is notoriously opaque, and analysts’ understanding of its drone programme is limited. “They certainly get a lot of mileage out of the fact that nobody knows what the hell they’re up to, and they’d take great care to protect that image,” said Ron Huisken, an expert on east Asian security at Australian National University.

He said the likelihood of a skirmish between Chinese and Japanese drones in coming years was “very high”.

US drones have also attracted the interest of the South Korean government as it seeks to beef up its ability to monitor North Korea, after last month’s successful launch of a rocket that many believe was a cover for a ballistic-missile test.

The US’s Global Hawk is piloted remotely by a crew of three and can fly continuously for up to 30 hours at a maximum height of about 60,000 ft. It has no attack capability.

The US deployed the advanced reconnaissance drone to monitor damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami on Japan’s north-east coast.

Japan summons China’s envoy in latest escalation of tension over disputed islands

News On Japan via New York Times — Jan 09


The Japanese Foreign Ministry summoned China’s ambassador on Tuesday after Chinese ships entered Japanese-controlled waters for 13 hours, a prolonged incursion that seemed to escalate a standoff over a group of disputed islands.


The ministry said the deputy foreign minister, Akitaka Saiki, strongly protested the incursion on Monday by four Chinese surveillance ships near the islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. The uninhabited island chain, near Okinawa, has been controlled by Japan for decades but is also claimed by China and Taiwan.The Chinese ambassador, Cheng Yonghua, responded by saying the islands belong to China and that Japanese ships had no right to be there, the ministry said.




Japanese athletes won’t perform in China: Chinese authorities refused to register them

Nov 10, 2012 20:18 Moscow Time

япония китай япония японский флаг япония флаг китайский флаг китай флаг

© Flickr.com/xioubin low/cc-by-sa 3.0

China has announced that Japanese runners will not take part in the traditional annual marathon in Beijing this year.

About 30,000 Japanese runners have already asked via the Web for participation in the marathon, but the Chinese authorities refused to register them.

The reason is that the relations between China and Japan have worsened because of the aggravation of the two countries’ dispute over a group of islands, which the Japanese call Senkaku, while the Chinese – Diaoyu. Each country claims that the islands should belong to it.

The dispute over the islands has been lasting since the late 19th century, but it aggravated recently after Chinese ships had approached the islands.

Voice of Russia, BBC



Japan, China engage in war of words at ASEM summit

Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012


VIENTIANE — Japan and China engaged in a war of words over the Senkaku Islands dispute Tuesday at the summit of Asian and European leaders, government sources said.

During a session of the Asia-Europe Meeting in Vientiane, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Japan places importance on overcoming any conflicts in a peaceful approach in accordance with international law.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who took over from Premier Wen Jiabao at the meeting, said the outcome of an “anti-Fascist” war should not be denied, a reference to what China says is its legitimate claims to the disputed islands, sources close to the talks said.

Wen had left the meeting on Tuesday morning.

Noda’s remarks were aimed at seeking ASEM countries’ understanding of Japan’s position on the dispute without naming China.

The following are the main points of remarks Tuesday by Japan and China regarding the Senkaku dispute, according to a briefing by a Japanese official.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said:

Japan has consistently and firmly maintained its policy of being a peaceful nation since the end of World War II and made a substantial contribution to peace and prosperity in Asia. This is Japan’s national virtue. Japan is resolved to moving ahead with its friends in the Asia-Pacific region and in Europe, who share the same basic values as our country. The international community still has many problems that pose a threat to regional peace and prosperity. Japan believes it is important to overcome any conflicts or differences in principles and policies in a peaceful approach, abiding by international law.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said:

Representing China, I have clearly said in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly that the Chinese government’s position on the Diaoyu has been totally and strictly consistent. What I would like to emphasize is that we cannot deny the results of an anti-fascism war and should not deny the order of the postwar era. Many countries have expressed their interest in this issue.

Noda said:

Originally, I didn’t intend to talk about bilateral issues, but I will make our position clear since China commented on this matter. Historically speaking and in line with international law, there is no doubt that the Senkakus are an integral part of our territory and Japan now effectively controls the islands. There is no dispute over the sovereignty of the isles that should be settled. We aim to continue to play a responsible role to maintain peace and prosperity in the international community.

Yang said:

China has controlled the Diaoyu for 600 years since the era of the Ming Dynasty. Japan’s behavior publicly denies the results of an antifascist war and poses serious challenges to postwar international order and principles.

China cancel diplomatic events with Japan amid islands row

Sino-Japanese ties hit lowest point in years as territorial dispute over Senkaku/Diaoyu isles continues to simmer

Associated Press guardian.co.uk,  Sunday 23 September 2012 10.06 EDT

Japanese protesters oppose China's claim on the disputed islands

A rally in Tokyo opposing China’s claim on the disputed islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Photograph: Itsuo Inouye/AP

China has cancelled events to commemorate 40 years of diplomatic relations with Japan, further signalling its anger over a simmering territorial dispute.

A Japanese foreign ministry official, Hiroaki Sakamoto, confirmed that China had cancelled the events, planned for Thursday. He did not provide further details.

China’s Xinhua News Agency, citing officials from the China-Japan Friendship Association and another government-affiliated group, reported on Sunday the events would not take place as planned. It said they would be held “at a proper time”.

Calls to China’s foreign ministry were not answered. In its evening broadcast, China Central Television said the timing of the events was being “adjusted”.

Relations have sunk to their worst level in years as the two sides spar over islands in the East China Sea claimed by both countries and by Taiwan.

In the latest large anti-Japan protest in China, up to 3,000 people demonstrated in Sunday in the southern city of Guangzhou, Xinhua reported.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, said in a statement late on Saturday that Japanese personnel had landed on the islands to stop Taiwanese activists from doing so and that China had protested strongly to Japan over the “severe infringement upon China’s territorial sovereignty”.

A group of Taiwanese fishermen have said they will sail 60 boats to the islands on Monday to protect their fishing grounds.

Hundreds of people marched in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, on Sunday to protest against Japan for occupying the islands.

They waved anti-Japan signs and asked Tokyo to relinquish the islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Japan’s government bought several of the islands from their private Japanese owners this month, setting off angry demonstrations across China.

Taiwan’s government has maintained a cautious approach to the dispute to avoid straining ties with Japan.

In shark-infested waters, resolve of two giants is tested

SENKAKU/DIAOYU ISLANDS – The voyage to these remote islands at the center of one of Asia’s most heated territorial disputes is a bone-jarring seven-hour boat ride from one of Japan’s southernmost ports, a long enough journey that the fishermen who brave the often stormy seas regularly sail in pairs for safety. The trip from the mainland of China, which also lays claim to the islands, is even longer.
The waters around the islands are believed to be infested with man-eating sharks. And the islands themselves, while tropical, are hardly postcard quality. Uotsuri, the largest of the five islands, is nothing more than a pair of craggy gray mountains with steep, boulder-strewn slopes that rise 1,000 feet almost straight from the water’s edge.
Two nearby islands are nothing more than large rocks covered by scruffy shrubs and bird droppings. The only structure on the islands is Uotsuri’s small, unmanned lighthouse. No one has lived on any of the islands since World War II.
The value of the islands has never been in their aesthetics, but in history and geopolitics: what control of the islands says about the relative power of Asia’s two economic giants, one rising and the other in what many see as a slow decline.
It remains unclear how far the longstanding territorial conflict over the islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, could escalate now that it has flared again. China has in recent days tamped down protests that were seeming to slip beyond its control, and the two countries share deep economic ties that make the stakes of further escalation clear. But popular opinion in China has been unwilling to let the issue die, and a small group of nationalists in Japan has so far seemed unwilling to let go of an issue that helps define it.

Territorial row is a ticking time bomb for Asia

Thursday, Sep. 20, 2012

SINGAPORE — As the struggle to control disputed islands and valuable offshore resources has intensified in the East and South China Seas over the past few years, the United States has said repeatedly that it does not take sides in the disagreements among Asian countries over who has ownership rights.

Maintaining an impartial position helps the U.S. to legitimize its “honest broker” role, and thus gain regional acceptance for moves to counter-balance growing Chinese power.

However, this has been easier for the U.S. in the South China Sea than it has in the East China Sea because America’s alliance bonds are looser and more ambiguous in the South China Sea, where only one of the four Southeast Asian claimants, the Philippines, is a U.S. ally.

In the East China Sea, America is tied by history and treaty to Japan’s side in the current surge of tensions between its ally and China.

Having the world’s top three economies involved in this way makes the situation much more dangerous. It explains why the U.S. is now calling on Japan as well as China to handle the confrontation carefully and give primacy to maintaining peace and stability.

As U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta tours the region this week, holding high-level talks in both Tokyo and Beijing, he says he will be calling for cool heads to prevail.

Noting Europe’s slowdown and U.S. economic difficulties, Kurt Campbell, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, pointed out on Sept. 11 that East Asia was “the cockpit of the global economy, and the stakes (in the dispute over the Senkakus) could not be bigger.”

The flare-up followed the Japanese government’s decision earlier this month to nationalize some of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea by buying them from private owners, despite Beijing’s insistence that they belong to China.

In an orchestrated display of national resolution, China’s top civilian and military leaders have all vowed to contest Japan’s move to tighten administration of the Senkakus.

Even before Japan acted, senior Chinese military leaders visiting Washington expressed “China’s strong concerns over issues related to China’s vital and core interests,” including U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, territorial disputes over islands and maritime boundaries in the East and South China seas, and U.S. close-range military reconnaissance activities directed at China.

Reporting on last month’s visit, the official Xinhua news agency quoted Gen.Cai Yingting, deputy chief of the Chinese armed forces general staff, as saying that China opposed the U.S. stance that the Senkakus — which China calls the Diaoyu Islands — fall within the scope of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, obliging Washington to help its ally if Japanese-administered islands come under foreign armed attack.

As if to underscore this commitment, Japanese forces and U.S. Marines are in the midst of a 37-day exercise to practice defense and re-capture of vulnerable and lightly guarded islands in the Ryuku archipelago south of the Japanese main islands.

The Senkakus are strategically located in this area between China, Taiwan and Japan. They are run by Japanese authorities as part of the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, where the U.S. has a major military base. It serves as a hub for projecting American power and influence in East Asia.

Japan says it placed a sovereignty marker on the Senkakus in 1895 after surveys that found them unoccupied.

China contests this view, saying it discovered, named and used the islands going back to the early 15th century. It insists the Senkakus were administered by Taiwan (then ruled by imperial China) prior to 1895 and that the islands were ceded to Japan in a treaty forced on China after it was defeated by Japan in a two-year war.

China (and Taiwan) say that they were promised at a 1943 meeting in Cairo during World War II with U.S. and British leaders that when Japan was defeated, all the territories it had “stolen from the Chinese,” including Formosa (Taiwan), would be restored to China.

Japan (and evidently the U.S.) dispute the view that the Senkakus were part of Taiwan. They say that the 1951 peace treaty in San Francisco between victorious wartime allies and vanquished Japan placed the Senkakus and other southern Japanese islands under temporary U.S. trusteeship.

This ended when a 1971 U.S.-Japan agreement handed Okinawa and surrounding islands back to Japanese control.

However, neither the People’s Republic of China, which has ruled the mainland since 1949, nor the Republic of China on Taiwan, were invited to the San Francisco conference. Neither Beijing nor Taipei are parties to the treaty.

So far, China has talked tough but only carried small sticks in repeatedly asserting sovereignty over the Senkakus. Nothing it has done in the latest flareup suggests that an invasion of the islands by Chinese regular armed forces is imminent.

China’s Global Times, which often voices nationalist views and is controlled by the ruling Chinese Communist Party, noted on Sept. 11 that Japan had an advantage because it was in actual control of the Senkakus. “Therefore, China should set a long-term goal, which is to change the current situation in terms of who controls the islands,” the paper said.

China appears confident that as its economic and military power continues to grow, Japanese and U.S. resolve to defend the Senkakus will diminish. Meanwhile, the uninhabited islands remain a time bomb that could explode with devastating consequences for Asia if China, Japan or the U.S. miscalculate.

Michael Richardson is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of South East Asian Studies in Singapore.

Chinese General: Prepare for Combat with Japan

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

China’s most powerful military leader, in an unusual public statement, last week ordered military forces to prepare for combat, as Chinese warships deployed to waters near disputed islands and anti-Japan protests throughout the country turned violent.

Protests against the Japanese government’s purchase of three privately held islands in the Senkakus chain led to mass street protests, the burning of Japanese flags, and attacks on Japanese businesses and cars in several cities. Some carried signs that read “Kill all Japanese,” and “Fight to the Death” over disputed islands. One sign urged China to threaten a nuclear strike against Japan.

Gen. Xu Caihou, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, considered the most senior military political commissar, said Friday that military forces should be “prepared for any possible military combat,” state run Xinhua news agency reported.

Heightened tensions over the Senkakus come as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in China Monday.

Panetta, in comments made in Japan shortly before traveling to China, said, “We are concerned by the demonstrations, and we are concerned by the conflict that is taking place over the Senkaku islands.”

“The message I have tried to convey is we have to urge calm and restraint on all sides,” he said, noting any “provocation” could produce a “blow up.”

Panetta repeated the U.S. position that it is neutral in the dispute over Japan’s Senkaku islands, a small chain of islets located south of Okinawa and north of Taiwan. But he also reaffirmed the U.S. defense commitment to Japan, a treaty ally.

“We stand by our treaty obligations,” Panetta said, echoing a similar commitment made during a 2010 standoff between Beijing and Tokyo over the Senkakus. ”They’re longstanding, and that has not changed.”

China claims the islands as its territory and calls them the Diaoyu islands.

Last week, following the Japanese government’s purchase of three of the Senkakus from private Japanese owners, six Chinese maritime security ships were deployed near the Senkaku islands, further heightening tensions.


Brief History of The Islands in Dispute between China and Japan: Islands Just sold for 26 Million

October Surprise: 2012 Sino-Japanese War Edition

A chain of islands with a land area just a little more than 10% that of Manhattan is causing big trouble in East Asia.  The Senkaku Islands are a persistent thorn in Sino-Japanese relations, and it appears that both countries are on course for one of the epic dick-measuring contests they have every couple of years over the chain. Below, I’ve linked to a report to events this weekend in the region.


The Senkaku Islands have been a source of dispute between China and Japan since the late 1970s, but the truth of the matter is that neither one of them actually gives a damn about the islands themselves.  No one actually lives there.  They are barren rock outcrops about a hundred miles away from anything of interest, but they grant an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)  which includes the Chunxiao field, which is believed to be rich in natural gas/petroleum but has yet to be developed because of the dispute.

Prior to 1895, the islands where unoccupied, although the People’s Republic of China claims them on the basis that the surrounding waters have been exploited by Chinese fisherman for centuries.  Bolstering this claim is the belief that the chain is historically connected to Okinawa, which between 1429-1879 was part of the Chinese vassal, Ryuku Kingdom. However, it should also be noted that from 1609 on, Okinawa was also a vassal of the Japanese Satsuma Domain.

The 1895 Sino-Japanese war resulted in the transfer of  Chinese claims in the region, including Taiwan and Okinawa to the Japanese.  That same year, Japan annexed the Senkaku islands, claiming that they were terra nullis and placed a small number of settlers on them.  This situation persisted until the end of the Second World War, after which Taiwan was returned to China, and the US occupied Okinawa and the Senkakus.  In 1972, the US returned both to Japan. At roughly the same time, the present dispute emerged as the gas/oil potential of the surrounding waters became known.

Every few years, there’s a heated exchange over the islands that normally dies down after 2-3 months.  Both Chinese and Japanese nationalists are passionately dedicated to the idea that the Senkaku islands are an integral part of their country.  Beyond the possibility of mineral wealth, there are extremist groups on both sides that have fueled the dispute.  Most recently in 2010, the arrest of Chinese fishermen after they rammed a Japan Coast Guard vessel attempting to remove them from the waters surrounding the islands led to a rapid escalation in the war of words between the country.

Although it is clear that the Chinese fishermen (likely acting as proxies for the Chinese government) were the aggressors in this case, ultimately it was the Japanese government that backed down. In 2010, the Chinese government began to lose control over the protests cum riots which occurred throughout the country against Japanese interests.  Japanese nationalists loathed this, and having been looking for a way to force the Japanese national government to  take a strong stand against persistent violations of their territorial waters by Chinese activists and fishing vessels.  So they raised money to buy the damn islands.

Sarajevo on the Sea

Until this year, the Senkaku Islands were owned by the descendants of one of the Japanese families which settled the islands after 1895. Earlier this year, Shintaro Ishihara, governor of Tokyo prefecture and leader in the opposition LDP, raised private funds to purchase the islands from the family, and attach them to Tokyo prefecture. In order to preempt this, the Japanese national government made moves to purchase the islands themselves, eventually turning them over to the Japan Coast Guard earlier this week.  This news provoked serious protests in China, and prompted the decision to send Chinese warships to patrol the islands. This is the CCP responding to the Chinese street.  Better for Beijing to be with the protesters throwing rocks, then getting them thrown at them.

From the Daily KOS:


US wades into China-Japan island dispute with missile defense deal

Published: 17 September, 2012, 13:32 Edited: 17 September, 2012, 16:44

A territorial dispute between China and Japan could spark a “violent conflict,” US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said. The US also inked a missile defense deal with Tokyo likely to anger Beijing, while mass anti-Japanese protests grip China.

“I am concerned that when these countries engage in provocations of one kind or another over these various islands, that it raises the possibility that a misjudgment on one side or the other could result in violence, and could result in conflict,” Panetta said.

He also warned that Beijing and Tokyo should put an end to provocations or risk a “potentially expanding” conflict.

Following the diplomatic meeting with Panetta, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said that Washington had agreed that the Senkaku islands, claimed by both Japan and China, are covered by a US-Japan security treaty.

In the 1960 treaty, the US committed to aid the Japanese in the event of an attack on the nation’s territory.

“I did not bring up the topic today, but it is mutually understood between Japan and the United States that [the islands] are covered by the treaty,” Gemba said after the meeting on Monday. Washington previously claimed that the US would not take sides in the territorial dispute over the archipelago in the East China Sea.

The US also signed an agreement with Japan on Monday to build a second missile defense radar installation on Japanese territory, aimed at countering North Korea. China may view the move as a provocation.

The Senkaku islands – known as Diaoyu to the Chinese – are uninhabited, but are believed to contain rich mineral deposits and are located on important shipping lanes.

Violent protests rocked China after Japan announced last week that it had purchased three of the islands from a private owner.  In the latest bout of demonstrations, anti-Japanese activists attacked Panasonic factories in the eastern city of Quingdao. Protesters burned Japanese flags and targeted Japanese-made cars.

In response to the wave of unrest, Panasonic temporarily ceased operations in China. In addition, Canon announced that it would suspend operations for employees’ safety. Toyota Motor Corp also said that it was affected by the anti-Japanese unrest, citing a suspected arson attack on one of its factories in the eastern Shandong province.


‘A decade of stagnation’

In a worrying escalation of the standoff around 1000 Chinese fishing boats are heading to waters near the disputed Senaku Islands, the state –run China National Radio reported, in what may be an additional counter measure over the Japanese nationalization of the isles.

The 1000 fishing boats may be joined by six Chinese surveillance ships, which have been stationed nearby since Friday.

On Monday, the Chinese government threatened that Japan could suffer from another “lost decade” if relations between the two countries deteriorate further.

“How could be it be that Japan wants another lost decade, and could even be prepared to go back by two decades,” state newspaper the People’s Daily said in a front-page article. China “has always been extremely cautious about playing the economic card,” it said.

The paper claimed that China was prepared to “take up the battle,” should tensions persist.

James Corbett, an independent journalist based in Japan, said that the Japanese government’s move to sign a missile defense deal with the US will have “a very destabilizing effect on the region.”

“It’s destined to inflame tensions even further,” Corbett said. He dismissed US claims that the new missile defense radar is aimed at countering a North Korean threat as, “silly as saying that the missile defense shield going up in Europe is not aimed at Russia.”

Corbett described the “diplomatic scuffle” over the islands as relatively recent, stemming from the deposits of natural gas and oil believed to be near to the islands. “For an awfully long time these islands were claimed by Japan and no one really cared about it in the region,” Corbett said.