Tuesday, September 21, 2010

China & Japan: Heating Up


Tensions have flared up once again between China and Japan during this Mid-Autumn festival season. The issue involves a small clump of uninhabitable islands located in the East China Sea known as Diaoyu in Chinese or Senkaku in Japanese, depending on your sympathies.

The row started about two weeks ago on September 7th after a Chinese trawler was caught fishing in the disputed waters by the Japanese Coast Guard. The Japanese asked them to leave, the Chinese said you've no right to patrol in disputed waters, and a scuffle broke out. What happened next is unclear, but Japan claims the trawler rammed its patrol boat intentionally and then arrested the entire crew. Of course, China denies this and says any such collision was an accident. A few days later the crew was released, minus the captain who is still being held in custody and will be charged under Japanese law.

This is unacceptable for China. They view the entire event as a ruse on Japan's part to exert control over the area and claim the natural gas reserves that lie beneath the islands. China (and Taiwan) have history on their side - the islands were considered part if its territory for centuries until the later half of the 19th century when Japan began to look outward for expansion.

And now Japan's veteran boy-band - SMAP - has had its Shanghai concerts cancelled citing safety concerns. Things haven't been this bad since Chinese model Vicky Zhao was caught wearing the Japanese military flag on the catwalk...

*UPDATE - September 24*

Japan relented and released the captain today amid growing lunacy on China's part. Just yesterday, four Japanese construction workers were arrested in Hebei for allegedly taking pictures of military installations. "In Chinese custody" are three of the most frightening words anyone could ever wish to hear. So, Japan did the smart thing and China wins today...but over the long-term they'll lose. They've made a strong case for increasing U.S. involvement and aid in the region, something they were wishing would soon begin to diminish.

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