China-Japan Dispute Over Islands Continues To Simmer
The Japanese Prime Minister is vowing to never compromise in his nation’s ongoing dispute with China over who controls a bunch of rocky islands in the South China Sea:
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has insisted that there could be no compromise with China on the ownership of a disputed island chain and denounced attacks on Japanese interests.
“So far as the Senkaku islands are concerned, they are an integral part of our territory in the light of history and of international law,” Noda told reporters at the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, referring to an archipelago in the East China Sea that China knows as Diaoyu.
“It is very clear and there are no territorial issues as such. Therefore there cannot be any compromise that could mean any setback from this basic position. I have to make that very clear,” he told reporters.
“The resolution of this issue should not be by force, but calmly, through reason and with respect for international law.”
China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told his Japanese counterpart Koichiro Gemba at the United Nations on Tuesday that Japan had been guilty of “severely infringing” its sovereignty, according to Beijing’s foreign ministry.
“The Chinese side will by no means tolerate any unilateral action by the Japanese side on the Diaoyu Islands,” Yang told Gemba, according to his office.
Meanwhile, one Chinese foreign policy strategist says that the dispute between the two countries could easily spiral out of control:
The spat over the Diaoyu or Senkaku islands has escalated dramatically in the past month with violent protests across China.
But with a national election approaching in Japan, and a change of leadership in China, politicians on both sides have refused to step back from the brink, afraid that they will appear weak.
“There is a danger of China and Japan having a military conflict,” said Yan Xuetong, one of China’s most influential foreign policy strategists, and a noted hawk.
“One country must make a concession. But I do not see Japan making concessions. I do not see either side making concessions. Both sides want to solve the situation peacefully, but neither side can provide the right approach,” he added.
He warned that unless one side backs down, there could be a repeat of the Falklands Conflict in Asia.
Despite the heated rhetoric, Walter Russell Mead notes that the two sides seem to continue to be interested in talking to each other, at least for the moment. This makes sense considered the fact that the dispute has already disrupted a trade relationship that is hugely important to both companies, and has resulted in the eruption of sometimes violent anti-Japanese protests in several Chinese cities. There really is no rational reason for these two nations to get into a conflict of any kind over what are, in the end, some fairly worthless rocks in the South China Sea. Of course, as Mead notes, reason doesn’t always control these affairs:
[T]rouble remains. The islands under dispute arouse powerful sentiments in both China and Japan, including bitter memories of World War II atrocities. National pride is at stake. So too is an important trade relationship. Officials in Beijing and Tokyo may be all for talking it out, but if things spin out of control and nationalist enthusiasm erupts like it did a few weeks ago in China, when Japanese businesses were vandalized, they might find themselves hard pressed to back down from a confrontation.
All the more reason for the leaders in Beijng and Tokyo to resolve this thing before it spins out of control, I would think