Looks like Sino-Japanese tension has risen once again, meaning the friendliest neighbors we know, China and Japan have hit a bump in the road for another round of “Hey! This Land is Mine…Right?”
Before we get into the details of this dispute, introduce yourself to the Senkaku Islands, a group of islands just hanging out in the East China Sea. Currently, the People’s Republic of China, and the Republic of China (commonly known as Taiwan) recognize the islands as part of Taiwan, and the islands are officially a township of Taiwan (and therefore, through extension, a township of China as well).
However, the islands are administered by the city of Ichigaki in Okinawa, a collection of islands off the south side of Japan. How’s that for diplomatic lingo? In layman’s terms, the Senkaku Islands are a part of China, but Japan’s there in its suits and ties to govern it any way it wants. Needless to say, these islands are classified as disputed. They’ve been in the hands of China, Japan, Taiwan, and you guessed it, the US of A.
However, as of now, we want nothing to do with it. It goes without saying that we have enough on our hands. But, our friends in Japan don’t think so. They purchased three of the islands this past week, and “pissed” doesn’t begin to explain China’s reaction. We all know China; these guys will light themselves on fire. But that’s so 1989. Now, we have these guys pelting the Japanese Embassy (and damn, are embassies getting a beating lately.) with eggs and plastic bottles like it’s Halloween, attacking a Japanese owned department store, burning some Japanese flags, you know, the usual protest regulations against Japanese Imperialism. Oh, and signs, don’t forget signs. Signs reading “Kill All Japanese”, “Fight to the Death” and one even urging China to use a nuclear strike against their neighbors. Police at the embassy encounter hundreds of protesters berating them for not supporting their country.
So, how is China’s military reacting to this? Well, you may want to ask its most powerful leader, Gen. Xu Caihou, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, who put out a statement last week ordering Chinese military forces to “prepare for combat”. Sounds just like regulation, right? Putting up a defense. Well, it doesn’t end there. China also deployed six warships into the East China Sea in the area occupied by the islands, which Xu Caihou reported last week as routine patrols to protect fishermen, and later justified them as ”safeguard[ing] the country’s national sovereignty”. He has a point; those waters have been Chinese fishing waters for centuries, but it should be obvious why China’s deployed warships out there.
The Japanese Coast Guard had confronted the ships when they started heading into Japanese waters, but the ships ignored all orders, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry had responded saying that these were just surveillance ships.
But wait, what about our country’s reaction? Well, the man behind this story on our side is our Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and his view on all this is a concerned one, as Japan is our treaty ally, but doesn’t want to provoke anything. He also said en route to Japan that the United States isn’t taking a position on territorial disputes.
And for another twist on this whole situation, the Japanese government has also obtained a map from Beijing in 1969 that the Chinese classified the islands by their Japanese name and used a territorial line south of the islands to indicate them being in Japanese territory, which is strange, since I’m pretty sure the islands were ours in 1969, but I guess it was all the same to the Chinese 43 years ago. So, it looks like the islands are fair game for our little treaty ally and primary source of glorious anime.
One should keep in mind though the leverage one has when they own these islands. House Foreign Relations Committee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen comments that “whoever controls these sea lanes can dominate Asia—and beyond“, so it’s pretty easy to see that this is just a move for Japanese imperialism. On the other hand, the islands are fair game and “China has upped the ante [in world crises], playing the role of a schoolyard bully towards its maritime neighbors”, says Ros-Lehtinen. Damn, this lady sure is passionate about this crisis and sure is good at making China look like children, in case they haven’t already done that on their own.