Sunday, September 12, 2010

Diplomatic Escalation In Japan-China Row Over East China Sea

China today upped the diplomatic pressure on Japan over recent incidents between the ships of the two nations in the disputed region of the East China Sea.

China and Japan have long-running disputes over a number of territorial issues, including ownership of the islands in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Japan has physical possession of the islands, and China claims them.

In recent years, as China finally begins to exercise the power represented by its newly-constructed blue water navy, China's posture in both the East China Sea and the South China Sea has become more openly aggressive and belligerent. As one example of this, China has been sending fishing boats into disputed waters, in order to provoke incidents which would give its navy an excuse to act.

The most recent example of this took place last week, near the Senkaku islands mentioned above. When two Japanese Coast Guard vessels approached the Chinese fishing vessel, the captain rammed the Japanese vessels and refused to stop. The ship was finally boarded and the captain and crew were arrested. They remain in custody, and the diplomatic catfight has been ratcheting up since Friday.

On Friday, the Chinese cancelled planned negotiations over another dispute in the same region, this one involving ownership of undersea gas deposits.

On Saturday, a Chinese vessel and a Japanese Coast Guard vessel were involved in another incident northwest of Okinawa.

Today, (Sunday 9/12/10), Japan's ambassador to China was summoned in the hours before dawn to listen to a list of angry demands presented by State Councilor Dai Bingguo, who is a high official in the Communist Party, thus out-ranking the Foreign Minister.

Chinese politics are always difficult to interpret. Is this just another round of diplomatic rubber chicken antics? I will confess to being without a clue. But it does seem clear that China is determined to expand its territorial claims in an aggressive manner, and feels it now has the preponderance of military force in the region.

As Chairman Mao said long ago, "Every Communist must grasp the truth. Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun."

More on the current incident at Arab News

Related issues in Asia Times Online

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