Tuesday, September 18, 2012

China and Japan Dispute Gas-Rich Islands

Chinese-Japanese Relations

A territorial dispute between Japan and China over a chain of unoccupied islands has become more tense lately, The Guardian reports. The decision by Japan to nationalize the disputed, gas-rich islands in the East China Sea that it purchased from its Japanese owner has led to violent protests in China and reopened old wounds; the incident is a reminder of the painful history between these two Asian economic powers, a history that predate the Second World War.
The sharpening dispute over the Senkaku islands, known as Diaoyu in China, is the most recent product of this old narrative of violence, hatred, fear and grief that continues, sporadically, to obstruct both nations in their efforts to forge a more stable, trusting relationship. But understanding its roots does not render it less potent. The Americans, who still view themselves as the Asia-Pacific's leading power, are increasingly nervous.
Leon Panetta, the US defence secretary, currently visiting Japan, pointedly warned that "provocative behaviour" by either side could lead to misjudgments, violence and, potentially, open warfare. "It is in everybody's interest … for Japan and China to maintain good relations and to find a way to avoid further escalation," Panetta said. In this he echoed Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, who this month stressed the need for restraint and dialogue between China and several south-east Asian countries with which Beijing has territorial disputes.
China's unhappy legacy of foreign occupation and its sense that an unrepentant Japan is party to a US-orchestrated geo-strategic conspiracy to contain or limit its development as a great power also form part of the backdrop to the Senkakus standoff. While claiming he was not taking sides, Panetta confirmed in Tokyo that the islands were covered by the Japan-US security and defence treaty. That means, in theory at least, that Washington is bound to help Japan defend territory that China says has been illegally seized.
Today marks the anniversary of The Mukden, or Manchurian Incident, of September 18, 1931; this became the pretext for Imperial Japan's invasion of northern China and a subsequent occupation by Japanese forces. Chinese commentators continue to note that Japan has "never fully come to terms with its wartime actions, let alone shown genuine remorse." On Monday, a flotilla of 1,000 Chinese fishing boats set sail for the islands. The dispute threatens to undermine trade relations between the world's second (China) and third (Japan) largest economies valued at $340 billion a year.

You can read the rest of the article at [The Guardian]

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