China-Japan spat gets serious

(deccanherald)The fact that tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in their respective capitals in the last few weeks, and that China took the extraordinary step of deserting the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in Tokyo a few days ago, should not be taken lightly­ these are the beginnings of a very serious regional conflict.

Adding fuel to the tensions, China conducted a military drill near the disputed island chain in the East China Sea on Friday, to prepare for any contingencies involving foreign vessels.
Although the Chinese Navy stressed that the drill is only a part of its annual exercise, diplomatic sources say it is aimed at pressuring Japan over the territorial dispute.

Meanwhile, Japan’s ambassador to China has warned that current dispute is an unprecedentedly serious one.
Uichiro Niwa said Saturday that ordinary citizens in China think that Japan has stolen its territory, and that bilateral relations could deteriorate to their state 40 years ago before the two countries established diplomatic ties.
Heo Seung-ha, Arirang News.

The Senkaku are a group of small islands (the largest measures four sq km), and were the property of a Japanese family. Their status was deliberately left unclear by Zhou Enlai (then Chinese premier) in 1972, at the talks for normalisation between China and Japan.

The islands are inhabited, but there are rumours that they sit atop natural gas reserves (energy is a crucial problem for both countries). The right wing governor of Tokyo, Shintato Hishihara, raised 18 million dollars to buy the island from the owner as a demonstration of patriotism. In China, this would probably have been considered bizarre.
In a bid to appear stronger than Hishihara, Noda nationalised three of the islands for 26 million dollars (making the owner happy). More brilliantly, he forgot to tell Chinese leader Hu Jintao when they met at a conference in Vladivostok, and Hu only learnt the following day from newspapers that the Diaoyu had been nationalised.

Since then, bilateral trade, which amounts to 326 billion dollars, has come to a halt, just as in a global economic slowdown. It is a fact that China has shown extraordinary aggressiveness, which has left many surprised. But the Pandora’s box that Noda has now opened is called UNCLOS (the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), which was established in 1994 and which the U S has not yet ratified. Thanks to several other little islands and rocks, Japan now has an exclusive maritime zone of 4.5 million square kilometres.

China, which has a longer coastline than Japan, has only 880,000 square kilometres. Add to this that Japan is the strongest ally of the US in Asia, and that Washington is pursuing a policy of containment of China in Asia (by 2016, 60 pe rcent of the U.S. fleet will be close to Chinese waters), and it would be difficult to have a different view in Beijing.

For so long as the status of the Diaoyu is open, UNCLOS will still be open to interpretations and negotiations. And now, thanks to the internal game of power among Japanese politicians, the search for effective global governance must go on.

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