‘Japan playing with fire:' Chinese warships deployed to disputed islands
Protesters (front) hold a banner reading "Diaoyu islands belong to China" as people march down a street in Weihai, in eastern China's Shandong province, to protest against Japan "nationalizing" the Diaoyu islands, also known as the Senkaku Islands in Japanese, on September 11, 2012. (AFP Photo)Tokyo moves against Japanese nationalists, not Beijing
Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba attempted to mitigate the blowback on Tuesday by reiterating the claim that the $26-million purchase served the "peaceful and stable maintenance of the islands."
Gemba urged calm, saying "we cannot damage the stable development of the Japan-China relationship because of that issue.”
Following the announcement to purchase the islands, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, without specifically mentioning the territorial dispute, admitted that regional dynamics had left Japan in an increasingly precarious position.
"We have North Korea launching missiles under the name of satellites and conducting a nuclear program, China expanding its military might and continuing vigorous activities in regional waters, and Russia also boosting its activities in the Far East," Reuters cites him as saying.
Having found itself in such troubled waters, some experts believe Japan’s bid to purchase the islands is meant to stymie plans by Tokyo’s nationalist governor, Shintaro Ishihara, who had previously announced hopes of developing the islands. The country’s central government maintains that it will not develop the isles.
Japan incorporated the disputed islands in 1895, but ceded ownership following World War II, when the US took over administrative control. The US returned the islands to Japan in 1972, three after an expert revealed that oil reserves could be located under the sea in close proximity to the isles, reigniting China’s once dormant territorial claims.“Ishihara put the national government in a very difficult spot. He pushed them into doing this now,” Sheila Smith, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, told AP. Smith says the three parties involved should see the move as an attempt by Tokyo to derail Ishihara’s plans.Ishihara for his part reiterated calls to develop the islands for use by fisherman.Chinese authorities, who regularly exaggerate statements regarding Japan for domestic consumption, at least publicly have no intentions of backing down, whatever Japan’s intentions, especially in an area where it might appear that a territorial claim is being solved unilaterally.But while nationalists on both sides are seen as a potentially destabilizing force, experts believe both sides have no intention of seriously damaging economic times over the issue.
Reuters / Bobby Yip