Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands map
The Okino Tori Shima islands, 1,118 miles south of Tokyo, consists of two rocks which barely pierce the water during high tide. Although the islands themselves are worthless, owning them gives Japan exclusive fishing and mining rights to more than 154,452 square miles of ocean that surround around them. Rich cobalt and manganese deposits may lie in the seabed offshore and the waters are teaming with fish and squid that help feed Japan's voracious appetite for seafood.

The Law of the Sea states the islands must be above sea level. To maintain their claim on the islands, which are only 27 inches above sea, the Japanese government spent several million dollars to build a wave absorbing barrier to keep the islands from being eroded by the sea.

The South China Sea in which the islands lie is important to Japan. About 70 percent of Japan’s imported oil passes through the South China Sea. China claims most the South China Sea.

History of the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands, Japan and China

Both China and Japan claim the fish-rich and potentially-oil-rich islands---known to the Japanese as the Senkaku Islands, to the Chinese as the Diaoyu Islands and to the Taiwanese as the Tiaoyutai Islands---between Okinawa and Taiwan in the East China Sea. The Senkaku Islands are in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture. Covering only seven square kilometers of uninhabited, rocky land. they comprise five islets--Uotsurijima, Kita-kojima, Minami-kojima, Kubashima and Taishoto--and three rocks. The islands are now uninhabited but in the 1940s there was a bonito processing factory on Uotsurijima, the largest of the Senkakus. China and Japan both see the islands lying between them as symbols of national pride.

On January 14, 1895: The Japanese government formally obtained control of the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands. Japan asserts the islands were not owned by anyone prior to their occupation while China maintains it has sovereignty over the island chain for centuries. On September 2, 1945: Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands, as part of Ryukyu Islands, came under the US goverment's control after the surrender of Japan at the end of the second world war.

On June 17, 1971: The Agreement between Japan and the United States of America Concerning the Ryukyu Islands and the Daito Islands was signed between Japan and the US, returning the Senkaku Islands (as part of the Ryukyu Islands) to Japanese administration. This triggered the first anti-Japanese protests, led by Taiwan. On: August 12, 1978: The Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty was signed between China and Japan, in which the dispute over the isles is put aside for future resolution.

On July 14, 1996: Right-wing Japanese Youth Association members landed and built a lighthouse on one of the islets, prompting a series of protests from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. On September 26, 1996: Hong Kong activist David Chan drowned after jumping into waters off the Diaoyu Islands during a pro-China protest. On September 29, 1996: Tens of thousands of people gathered for a candlelight vigil in Victoria Park to mourn David Chan’s death and protest against Japan’s claim of the islands. On October 7, 1996: Three activists from Hong Kong and Taiwan landed on the Diaoyu Islands. On March 24, 2004: Activist Feng Jinhua and six others from China land on the Diaoyu Islands, the first time mainland activists successfully landed on the islands.

Japan’s Claim to the Senkaku-Diaoyus

The Japanese claim on the Senkaku islands dates back 1895 when the islands were declared by the government as part of Okinawa prefecture. After the signing of San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951, Japan formally lost all of the territories it acquired after 1895. There was little interest in the islands until a geological surveys released in 1968 and 1972 reported their might be oil and minerals around the islands. Also at stake are the fishing rights. Financial Times among others has pointed out Beijing “did no challenge Japan’s sovereignty claim” until learning that the sea floor near the Senkakus could hold oil deposits.

During the U.S. occupation of Okinawa, the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands were used for military drills by U.S. forces. When the U.S. returned Okinawa to Japan in 1972, the Japanese also claimed the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands. When Japan and China signed a joint communique in 1972, the issues of the islands was not raised.

When China and Japan signed a peace treaty in 1978, vice-premier Deng Xiaoping said the dispute over the islands "will be shelved until the next generation comes up with a solution." Also in 1978, the ultra-rightist group Nihon Seinen Sha (Japan Youth Federation) set up a makeshift lighthouse on the largest of the islands. After of period of time the same group returned to the island to rebuild the lighthouse and seek official recognition.

China’s Claim to the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands

In 1971, Taiwan and China both officially claimed the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands as theirs. Yutaka Ito and Toru Makinoda wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: China holds that Japan stole the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands at the end of the Sino-Japanese War. China focuses on the 1943 Cairo Declaration that stipulated territory acquired by Japan from the Qing dynasty should be returned to the Republic of China. As Japan accepted the 1945 Potsdam Declaration, which called for implementation of the Cairo Declaration, China should have a valid claim to territorial sovereignty over the islands.[Source: Yutaka Ito and Toru Makinoda, Yomiuri Shimbun, October 13, 2012]

Concerning China's claims, based on the Cairo Declaration, the government holds that the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands were not included in the territory mentioned in the declaration, and that China also recognized the islands were part of Japan's territory after the Potsdam Declaration was announced. [Ibid]

Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba rebutted China's claims, noting that China first asserted its territorial sovereignty claim over the islands in the 1970s. Gemba also pointed out a Chinese map of the world published in 1960 clearly identified the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands as "the Senkaku Group of Islands," as well as the name "Uotsurijima island." Also, the minister said there was a description of "the Senkaku Islands, Yaeyama District, Okinawa Prefecture, Empire of Japan" in a letter of appreciation sent to Japan from the then consul of the Republic of China in Nagasaki in 1920. [Ibid]

Senkaku-Diaoyu Island Dispute Heats Up

Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands map
In 1996, ultra-nationalists erected on a lighthouse (actually a thin aluminum beacon about 15 feet high) on the main Senkaku-Diaoyu island. By this time four of the five islands were technically the private property of two Tokyo businessmen active in ultra-nationalist politics. Beijing was upset by Tokyo's tolerance of the actions by the ultra-rightists.

The people of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong were all unified in their disgust with Japan. In Hong Kong in 1996, protestors took to the streets and burned a Japanese flag. One Hong Kong teacher told Newsweek, "Our dream is that the Beijing navy would sail in from the left, the Taiwan navy would sail in from the right and we would take the Japanese together as a strong national force."

In September 1996, a freighter with 18 protestors from Hong Kong and Taiwan was turned back from the islands with the lighthouse by Japanese coast guard ships. Four protestors jumped into the water to symbolically claim the seas around the island for China. One of the protesters, 45-year-old David Chan, drowned in the choppy seas.

In March 2004, seven Chinese nationalists land on Senkaku-Diaoyu. They were arrested by Japanese police and coast guard personnel that arrived by helicopter. The seven were detained for a couple days and deported. The incident got quite a bit of press coverage in Japan and stirred up nationalist sentiments. In Beijing, a few dozen people held ani-Japanese demonstrations outside the Japanese embassy.

China has also been angered by textbooks that show disputed island in the East China Sea as belonging to Japan.

Natural Gas in Waters Between Japan and China

Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands map
There are large undersea natural gas fields in waters claimed by both China and Japan in the East China Sea about halfway between Okinawa and the Chinese mainland. The Chunxiao and Tianwaitian natural gas fields lie in China’s exclusive economic zone. The Chunxiao field covers 8,500 square miles and holds up to 9 trillion cubic feet of gas, enough to meet China’s needs for seven years.

The area is near a group of disputed islands claimed by Japan and China known as the Senkaku to the Japanese, Diaoyu to the Chinese and Tiaoyutai to the Taiwanese. The actual line of demarcation of the boundary of the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) between China and Japan is a matter of dispute. Japan wants to make a deal but China seems more intent and trying to get away with as much as it can without actually violating international law. China so far has drilled only waters in its EEZ but it has angered Japan because these areas are so close to the disputed border.

According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea each coastal nation controls a an economic coastal zone that extends 200 nautical miles (230 miles, 375 kilometers) from the shoreline. The distance between Okinawa ad China is about 400 miles. Japan advocated a median line between the two countries. China advocates setting its economic border on the eastern extension of the continental shelf, a concept that pushed the border 50 miles of f the Okinawa archipelago. It seems unlike the two countries will ever agree on the line.

An area of 400 square kilometers, or 150 square miles, lies at the heart of the dispute. Japan has suggested that Japan and China tap the gas fields together. Thus far China has rejected these offers. Japan has also demanded that China make pubic its survey and drilling results because two of the three major gas fields that China found are believed to extend into territory claimed by Japan. Beijing has reportedly awarded exploration right to Chinese companies to explore blocks that extend into Japan’s EEZ.

Four main natural gas fields from north to south (Chinese name in parentheses): 1) Asunaro (Longjing); 2) Kusunoki (Duanqiao); 3) Kashi (Tianwaitian), closest to the Chinese mainland; 4) Shirakaba (Chunxiao)

Drilling for Natural Gas in Waters Between Japan and China

Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands map
areas claimed by Japan and China
In June 2004, China began developing the Chunxiao site. It is now aggressively drilling at Chunxiao and Tianwaitian while Japan has yet go beyond doing geological surveys partly because the most promising areas for oil and gas are in disputed areas. China has gas production platforms less than a mile west of waters claimed by Japan. Japan claims that this platform is sucking gas from a deposit that extends over Japan’s side of the line.

In 2004, China began laying 291-mile gas pipeline between Shanghai to Chunxiao. Ironically $120 million for the $1 billion project came from Japanese ad.

Japan has earmarked $125 million to search for oil I the disputed area. In March 2005, the Japanese hired a Norwegian seismic ship to do surveys for oil and gas, While it was doing so it was treated as a spy ship by the Chinese and followed by Chinese ships. Japan is spending $100 million for its own seismic ship.

In 2005, the Japanese government awarded the Japanese company Teikoku Oil right to drill for oil at three sites near the “median line” that Japan says divide the Japan’s and China’s EEZ. In July 2005, China called Japan’s plan for drilling “a violation.”

In September 2005, Japan urged China to stop developing the disputed gas fields and called for joint exploration. In March 2006, China proposed that Japan and China jointly explore for oil and gas at one site the East China Sea together. Japan rejected the proposal. The site proposed by China is thought to be one that doesn’t contain much oil or gas. The disputed areas where gas has been found were not part of the proposal. Japan repeated its suggestion that the disputed areas should be jointly developed.

In October 2006, Chinese President Hu and Japanese Prime Minister Abe agreed to aim to resolve the dispute early with some of joint development. And promised to make the East China Sea a “sea of peace, cooperation and friendship.”

China began production at the Chunxiao field in the first half of 2006. An official with CNOOC said China intends to “launch normal production operations on its own territory.” According to a CNOOC year end report for 2006 listed on its website production at Tianwaitian field was 113,267 cubic meters of natural gas a day and 42 barrels of oil a day. Production is believed to be much higher than that. No production figures were given for the Chunxiao, Canxue and Duanqiao fields.

Natural Gas Deal Between Japan and China

In 2008, China and Japan agreed to share the development of the Shirakaba and Asunaro gas fields. The agreement to develop the Shirakaba field was announced during a visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Japan.

Japan has offered to provide much of the funding for joint development of natural gas deposits in the East China Sea. China is reluctant to a agree to joint development because it feels that such an agreement would invalidate China’s claim on the entire continental shelf.

In June 2008, Japan and China reached an accord on developing the natural gas fields in the East China Sea, with Japan investing in a gas field already operated by China (the Chunxiao field) and the two nations jointly exploring an area not yet developed (the Asunaro gas field, which China calls the Longjing field). An agreement was not made on the Asunaro field, in part because of South Korean claims in the area.

After the agreement was made Japan discovered that China was developing a natural gas field known as Tiawaitan to the Chinese and Kashi to the Japanese and lodged a complaint saying development of the site went against the sprit of the agreement. China responded by saying that it had the right to drill at the site.

Comparing the Senkaku-Diaoyu and South China Sea Dispute


China's strategy of using fishing boats and fisheries patrol vessels to give the impression that the area belongs to China is similar to what China is doing in the South China Sea. Takashi Shiraishi wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: Probably because of such developments, not a few people in Japan and elsewhere have tried to address the Senkaku-Diaoyu issue by coupling it with the territorial disputes in the South China Sea. This is valid if we want to understand such questions as China's maritime strategy. But it is important to remember that the issues surrounding the Japanese islands in the East China Sea and the disputed South China Sea are different in nature as territorial issues. [Source: Takashi Shiraishi, Yomiuri Shimbun, September 24, 2012. Shiraishi is president of both the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies and the Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization]

The Senkaku Islands have been under Japan's effective control. It is Japan's position that there is no territorial conflict on the Senkakus, whatever China says with respect to the sovereign status of the islands.Therefore, there was no need for Japan to provoke China by taking a theatrical posture for the purpose of declaring Japanese sovereignty over the Senkakus. It would have been good enough to maintain this country's effective control of the island group calmly. [Ibid]

The territorial disputes in the South China Sea are of different nature, because all the parties involved--Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as China--acknowledge that they have disputes over islands, reefs and shoals there. This is why the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China signed the "Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea" in 2002. But tensions have mounted over the issues in recent years. [Ibid]

As such, it is clear that the nature of the Senkaku issue is different from that of the disputes in the South China Sea. China, nonetheless, is expected to keep trying to convince the international community of its own assertion that it has an ongoing territorial dispute with Japan and keep the on-site conflict alive around the Japanese islands. In response, Japan should calmly but determinedly proceed with the enhancement of the Japan Coast Guard's maritime policing capabilities and the buildup of the country's defense capabilities as a way of making its sovereign rule of the Senkakus unwavering. Self-help must be the basis of such efforts. [Ibid]

As for the disputes in the South China Sea, the point at issue is whether conflicts over maritime sovereignty should be resolved bilaterally or multilaterally through the formulation a regional code of conduct in the sea. It also should be noted that the South China Sea remains prone to frequent incidents related to territorial rows. To police such maritime irregularities, the countries concerned are deploying vessels of their law enforcement entities, such as maritime surveillance and coast guard ships, instead of naval vessels whose activities are rigidly regulated by international rules of engagement. Under the circumstances, there is a significant possibility that those non-naval vessels will unexpectedly clash with each other. [Ibid] To prepare for such contingencies, Japan, in cooperation with the United States, Australia and Indonesia, among other countries, should strongly urge China and ASEAN countries to start working again on formulating the proposed regional code of conduct in the South China Sea. [Ibid]

Solution to the Diaoyu-Senkaku Conflict: Making it a Marine Reserve?

The marine environmental lawyer Tom Appleby, who was involved in the creation of the Chagos archipelago marine reserve has started a petition on for a similar reserve centered around the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. As tensions rise in the China Sea, Japan, Taiwan and China could easily sleepwalk into conflict, with horrific consequences for all sides and the world in general. A new focus is needed to end this brinkmanship. The marine environment is in dire straights and desperately needs breathing spaces. A marine protected area around Diaoyu / Diaoyutai / Senkaku would demonstrate the global statesmanship of all the parties and help conserve the ocean for future generations. [Ibid]

Japan and China Engage in 'Propaganda War' on Senkaku-Diaoyu Dispute

Yutaka Ito and Toru Makinoda wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: Japan had until recently been reluctant to internationally air its claims to sovereignty over the islands, over which it denies the existence of any territorial dispute with China. However, the ongoing standoff over the islands has taken on aspects of a propaganda war aimed at the international community, prompting Japan to reverse its policy and appeal to world opinion regarding its claim. [Source: Yutaka Ito and Toru Makinoda, Yomiuri Shimbun, October 13, 2012] Beijing began a large-scale propaganda campaign to win over international opinion, especially in the United States. In September 2012, China ran advertising spreads in major U.S. newspapers asserting its claim to the Senkaku Islands. In addition, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi made remarks about the islands at the U.N. General Assembly at the end of September, saying Japan "stole" them from China. [Ibid]

The remarks were apparently intended to insinuate the Japan-China dispute over the islands should not remain as a mere bilateral issue, but rather that it poses a great challenge to the postwar international order. China apparently aims to lure international opinion--especially public opinion in the United States--away from Japan, as China was allied with the United States during World War II. [Ibid]

According to sources familiar with Japan-China diplomatic issues, it is believed China is ready to take any measures to have Japan recognize the existence of a territorial dispute over the islands. The Chinese finance minister, the governor of the People's Bank of China and representatives of four major Chinese banks did not attend the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Tokyo, in an apparent effort to accentuate the view that a dispute exists. [Ibid]

In response to such Chinese moves, the government is considering a strategy of lobbying for international support by dispatching the Foreign Ministry's top three parliamentary ministers, including Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and a special advisor to the prime minister, to relevant countries to explain the Senkaku Islands are an integral part of Japan's territory, both historically and under international law. Foreign Ministry officials have been explaining Japan's position on the Senkaku issue to officials at various embassies in Tokyo and in the overseas media. "It will be more effective if Cabinet ministers and politicians explain the issue on their own," a senior ministry official said. [Ibid]

Japan does not acknowledge a territorial dispute between itself and China. Therefore, Tokyo has been reluctant to start a propaganda war with Beijing over the sovereignty of the islands because it might give the impression to the international community that a territorial dispute between the two exists. However, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura emphasized at a press conference Wednesday the government would change its policy. "We need to make our case to the international community by explaining our stance and opinions to foreign countries and overseas media on various occasions," Fujimura said. [Ibid]

Haruki Murakami and Yan Lianke on the Senakau-Diaoyu Dispute

The Chinese writer Yan Lianke wrote in the New York Times, “Raucous clashes triggered by the recent Sino-Japanese territorial dispute have made creative writing impossible for me. I’ve been devoting all my time to following the news, anxiously delving into every new development. Again and again, I ask myself: What turns an interminable island dispute into a fireball? Who can put out the flames? Who can make politicians sit down to sip iced tea together and engage in calm and courteous dialogue? Where are the voices of reason? I long for more rational voices, I long to hear from my fellow writers. [Source: Yan Lianke, New York Times, October 5, 2012. Yan Lianke is a Chinese novelist and short story writer based in Beijing. English translations of his works include “Serve the People!” and “Dream of Ding Village.” This article was translated from the Chinese by Jane Weizhen Pan and Martin Merz.

I was deeply touched after reading translations of the Nobel laureate Kenzaburo Oe’s views on the territorial issues and Haruki Murakami’s recent commentary warning of the damage caused by the outbursts of nationalism. My long admiration for these Japanese writers now extends well beyond their literary achievements. “It’s like cheap liquor,” Murakami wrote, referring to nationalism. “It gets you drunk after only a few shots and makes you hysterical. It makes you speak loudly and act rudely ... but after your drunken rampage you are left with nothing but an awful headache the next morning.”

In the face of these inflammatory disputes between Japan and China, Japanese writers are taking the lead in bringing a measure of reason to the discussion. Compared with their humanity and courage, I am ashamed of myself as a Chinese writer for my slow response. “I fear that as both an Asian and Japanese writer,” Murakami writes, “the steady achievements we’ve made (in deepening cultural exchanges and understanding with our Asia neighbors) will be hugely damaged” because of the recent problems. [Ibid]

I understand Murakami’s concern. However, I have to say that culture and literature have always been vulnerable to politics. Historically, cultural and literary exchanges have always been the first to take a hit whenever border disputes arise. It makes me sigh every time I see culture and literature treated like festive lanterns---hung out in extravagant displays whenever needed and then discarded when the excitement is over. Again and again, I pray in these dark nights: Please, no more guns and drums. All wars are disastrous. The bloodstains of the Sino-Japanese war during World War II remain vivid even today in our collective memory. [Ibid]

“We are all human beings,” Murakami wrote in his powerful Jerusalem Prize award acceptance speech delivered in Israel in 2009, “individuals transcending nationality and race and religion, fragile eggs faced with a solid wall called The System. To all appearances, we have no hope of winning. The wall is too high, too strong---and too cold. If we have any hope of victory at all, it will have to come from our believing in the utter uniqueness and irreplaceability of our own and others” souls and from the warmth we gain by joining souls together.

I agree with him. For ordinary people, no one wins a war. Death is our only destiny. In the face of war, we are all fragile eggs. If only more intellectuals in Japan, Korea and China could step forward and speak with the voice of reason instead of spreading hatred and indulging in emotional outbursts, instead of standing aside indifferently, perhaps we could lower the temperature and bring some much-needed iced tea to people inflamed with territorial fervor. I am painfully aware of the feeble stature of writers and intellectuals in this complex world. But I believe if we are ever to be useful, now is the time. [Ibid]

In his essay, Murakami mentioned that his and the works of other Japanese authors had been removed from shelves in bookstores in China. This is a surprise for me. Only a few days ago I saw Japanese literary works on display as usual in All Sages Bookstore in Beijing. But I believe that what Murakami reported must have happened somewhere in China. China is a large country. Many people here live with anxiety every day, for reasons they themselves may not even understand. All the time, they wait for a channel to vent their frustrations. It was because of these frustrations that vandalism and assaults occurred during the recent demonstrations. This behavior not only is disturbing for the Japanese people, but also for many Chinese. As a Chinese writer, I am ashamed for my compatriots who took part in the vandalism, yet I feel for their inarticulate powerlessness and frustration. I know it is absurd and wrong for bookstores to remove books by Japanese authors, but I also understand the concerns bookstore staff members may have. “Anything can happen in today’s China,” is a theme that often appears in my literary works. But, at the same time, a sense of powerlessness and sadness is always real for me. [Ibid]

I finished the first draft of my latest novel in August. The last part is filled with the absurdity and horrors that have been playing out in real life today. In fact, the ending is about what has been happening in China and Japan, and what everyone fears will happen. I am embarrassed for the lack of imagination. My novel is not an irrational prophesy of war, and now I don’t know how to change the ending. But I do know that---in any nation---if the voices of reason are not heard, disaster can strike at any time, and it is the ordinary people who will suffer. [Ibid]

I know little of territorial issues, politics and military matters. My love for literature and culture, however, knows no borders. Compared to those who devote all their attention to territorial aggrandizement, I am more devoted to world literature and culture. As a Chinese writer, I long for the day when we can let politics be politics, and culture and literature will be left alone. Culture and literature are the shared bond of mankind. When political instabilities arise, I hope this bond will not again be the first casualty. After all, culture and literature are the root of our existence, and cultural exchange is about sharing universal emotions and experiences. When culture is abandoned, when literature is discarded only to gather dust, when the root of our existence is severed, does the size of a territory really matter?

United States and the Senkaku-Diaoyus Dispute

In December 2012, the Japanese news service Kyodo reported: “:The U.S. Senate approved a key defense policy bill stipulating that Washington acknowledges Japanese control of the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands and that they fall under the scope of a bilateral security treaty.The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2013 which covers a year from October said, "The United States reaffirms its commitment to the government of Japan under Article V of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security." [Source: Kyodo, December 5, 2012]

"While the United States takes no position on the ultimate sovereignty of the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands, the United States acknowledges the administration of Japan over the Senkaku Islands," the bill said, adding, "The unilateral actions of a third party will not affect United States acknowledgement of the administration of Japan over the Senkaku Islands," a phrase apparently referring to China's aggressive stance on the dispute with Japan over the islets in the East China Sea. Under the Japan-U.S. security treaty, the United States would defend Japan in the event of an armed attack. U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill after passage of the House of Representatives. [Ibid]

Stating the United States is opposed to any claimant's efforts to coerce or threaten to use force or use force in seeking to resolve sovereignty and territorial issues in the East China Sea, the amendment says the country reaffirms its commitment to the Japanese government under Article V of the 1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. The amendment was co-sponsored with a bipartisan group of senators, including John McCain, a Republican. The U.S. defense authorization act has often been amended over diplomatic issues including sanctions against Iran over suspected development of nuclear weapons. [Ibid]

In October 2012, Jiji Press reported: “A group of former senior White House officials have notified the Chinese government of the U.S. understanding that the Senkaku Islands are covered by the bilateral security treaty with Japan, said Joseph Nye, former U.S. assistant defense secretary, on Saturday. During a recent visit to China, former senior U.S. officials, including Nye and Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state, met with Vice Premier Li Keqiang and other officials on Tuesday and reiterated that Article 5 of the treaty is applicable to the island group in the East China Sea, also claimed by China, Nye told a symposium held in Tokyo. [Source: Jiji Press, October 28, 2012]

At the same event, Armitage said "there is no quick solution" to the long-standing territorial row between the two countries. According to Armitage, Beijing is "trying to drive a wedge" between the United States and Japan by asking Washington to take an ambiguous position on the issue. If China attacks Japan, the United States would defend its close ally, Armitage said. According to Nye, now a Harvard University professor, the former officials' visit was made at the request of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to clarify the U.S. stance on the Senkaku-Diaoyu issue to the Chinese side. [Ibid]

Island Dispute Between China and Japan in 2010 After Ship Collision 2010

20111031-Kan Kantei china 22jck1_1.jpg
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan with a less than cordial Wen Jiabao of China
In early September 2010, a major diplomatic row broke out between Japan and China when the captain of a Chinese trawler was arrested and taken into custody by Japanese authorities after his vessel collided with two Japanese Coast Guard (JCG) vessels in waters in Japan’s 22-kilometer contiguous zone off the Senkaku Islands, Japanese islands also claimed by China. The trawler collided with the Japanese vessels after it ignored orders to stop. The captain, 41-year-old Zhan Qixiong, was held on charges of illegally fishing in Japanese waters, trying to evade an inspection by the Japanese Coast Guard (JPG) and obstructing JCG duties by deliberately ramming the trawler into the JCG ship. The Chinese claim the trawler was not fishing illegally because the islands belong to China. Fourteen other Chinese crew members were initially detained but they were soon after released. Only Zhan was detained for a length of time.

The Japanese claimed the matter would be dealt with in accordance with Japanese law. Video images of the collision clearly show that the Chinese trawler deliberately ramming the JCG patrol vessel Mizuki. Japanese foreign minister Seiji Maehara told reporters, “It was clear the Chinese fishing boat rammed into [the JCG vessel]. If it wasn’t intentional [the Chinese boat] would’ve reversed its engines and tried to move but the footage doesn’t show that.” The video also shows the Japanese and Chinese vessels initially going on a parallel course with the Chinese trawler then veering towards the JCG boat.

Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times that Japanese newspapers speculated at length on the background of Zhan, the Chinese trawler captain: “Some call him a Chinese naval officer. Mr. Zhan has declined to talk to journalists. He and his employer, Wu Tianzhu, who owns 10 fishing vessels in Mr. Zhan’s home county in Fujian Province, do not work with the Chinese military, said Mr. Wu’s wife, who gave her name only as Ms. Chen because of the delicacy of discussing security matters. Mr. Zhan has been a fisherman all his life, she said.”[Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, October 5, 2010]

“About three years ago, an official document circulated in Shenhu County, where Mr. Zhan lives, telling fishermen not to go to the disputed waters, an employee at a local fishing information center who identified himself only as Mr. Chen, told the New York Times. But there has been no such warning in recent years, he added. “Gradually, more and more boats went to fish there, especially when the harvest was not good enough in other areas,” he said. “More boats went there last year and this year.” [Ibid]

In late September, Wong reported, as the China-Japan feud was unfolding, the Chinese fisheries bureau invited a Chinese reporter from Global Times to come aboard a going on a regular run to the Diaoyu Islands. The reporter, Cheng Gang, wrote of a run-in between the Chinese civilian ship and three Japanese Coast Guard ships: The Japanese ships asked the fisheries boat to turn around. The Chinese vessel replied via transmitter: “We are a Chinese fisheries administration boat. The Diaoyu Islands are China’s indigenous territory, and we are carrying out official duties in Chinese territorial waters. We ask you to leave immediately!”

China’s Hardball Response to the Island Dispute in 2010

A spokesperson for the Chinese government said the islands were “inherently the territory of China” and warned that “if Japan continues in this reckless fashion, it will taste its own bitter fruit.” Beijing lodged several complaints about the arrest of the captain including one by a high-level deputy prime minister in which the Japanese ambassador was summoned in the middle of the night. China also called off talks on resolving disputes on claims over natural gas deposits in waters near the islands.

Tours by Chinese to Japan were cancelled and invitations to Japanese students to visit Expo 70 were withdrawn. Travel companies in China were told by the government to refrain from arranging package tours.Concerts b the Japanese pop group SMAP were postponed. An art show in Beijing with participants from Japan was canceled. The story was at the top of the news in China and Japan almost everyday during the stand off, with some Chinese sources saying the whole thing was orchestrated by the Japanese government so it didn’t come across as being so militarily weak. A number of Japanese canceled the travel plans to China.

Four Japanese nationals, employed by Fujita, a second-tier general contractor, were detained in Hebei Province in China for allegedly entering a military zone on the outskirts of Shijiazhuang without permission and videotaping facilities there. The Fujita workers were in China researching the disposal of chemical weapons left in China by Japan after World War II in hopes of getting a Japanese -funded contract to dispose of them. They were scheduled to stay in China for two or three days.

There were fears of a serious economic fallout over the issue such as a boycott of Japanese goods or retaliation again factories producing Japanese goods in China or against Japanese citizens. China did impose an effective ban on the exports of rare earths and silicon---materials critical in the electronics and automobile industry and of which China is one of the sole suppliers---by initiating customs procedures such as requiring documents to be in Chinese, a deviation from usual practices, that halted the shipments. All 31 Japanese company involved in he rare trade said their businesses had been hampered by the Chinese export restrictions.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao demanded that the Japan “immediately and unconditionally” release the captain of the trawler that collided with the Japanese coast guard ship. “The Diaoyu islands are China’s sacred territory, the arrest of the captain is definitely an illegal act,” he said, adding that the Chinese government has taken measures it has because “Japan has made no effort to listen to us.” He said “If Japan goes its own way and continues with judiciary proceedings, China will take further action. Japan should bear all responsibility for the serious consequences that will arise” from its action. Japan insisted it would follow domestic law and not let foreign pressure decides the case. Jiabao ruled out meeting with Japanese leaders and suspended Chinese government contacts with Japan.

Anti-Japanese Protest in China Over the Island Issue

Chinese nationalists staged anti-Japanese protest that in some cases became violent when Chinese security forces tried to break them up. One boisterous demonstrations with around 100 Chinese activists was staged outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing. Some protesters there carried signs that read “Burn you Japan !” and shouted “Boycott Japanese products!” The were also protests outside Japanese consulates in Shanghai, Shenyang and Shenzhen.

Thousands took to the streets in Chengdu, unfurling banners and shouting slogans such “Defend the islands” and “Fight Japan.” Protestors there broke into the Japanese retailers Ito-Yokado and Isetan and broke windows. One witness told the Yomiuri Shimbun, “One after another, young people on the roadside joined the procession of university students, and the number of protestors quickly swelled...Police soon lost control.” In Tianjin an international school was attacked by angry Chinese. In Xian, thousands of college students marched while holding flags and banners, shouting slogans such as “Boycott Japanese goods.” Windows were broken and display cases were shattered at Mizuno and Sony retail stores.

In Zhengzhou, college students assembled in the downtown square and marched through the streets , shouting “Long live the motherland” and “Return the islands to China.” There were also anti-Japanese protests in Wuhan, Hebei Province and Deyang and Minyang, Sichuan Province, where more than 10,000 people gathered. In Deyang protesters referred to Japan using a derogatory term that roughly translated to “small Japan” and waved placards reading “Listen to the Voice of the Fatherland.” In Miyang protestors broke windows of Japanese cars and trashed a Japanese restaurant. [Source: Kyodo]

A chat room for the Chinese newspaper Global Times was shut down because of anonymous calls for the slaughter of Japanese citizens. Japan’s Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara gave Beijing some credit for its efforts to reign and limit in the protests. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu spoke out against acts of violence by demonstrators but showed no opposition to the protests themselves. Ma accepted anti-Japan demonstrations as a "display of patriotic passion," saying: "It's understandable that some people expressed their outrage at the recent erroneous words and actions of the Japanese side [over the Senkakus]."

There were some anti-Chinese rallies in Japan. At one in event in Tokyo about 1,000 people gathered and carried banners with messages such as “Japan is in Danger!” and “Don’t Forgive invader China .” Some of the largest cheers rose up from the crowds when a nationalist politicians accused China for being ungrateful for all Japan has done for it.

Chinese Ships Around the Senkaku Islands in 2012

Chinese fishing boats and surveillance vessels routinely sail around the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands to make their presence felt. China's strategy is to use such vessels to give the impression that the area belongs to China. Chinese patrol vessels entered Japanese territorial waters in March 2012. China has said it plans to increase the number of patrol vessels and beef up their capabilities. Its enhancement of its naval forces also has been noticeable. Growing tensions in waters off the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands appear inevitable. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, July 14, 2012]

In April 2012, Jiji Press reported: “Japan Coast Guard aircraft spotted Chinese fishery surveillance ships in the East China Sea near the Senkaku Island in Okinawa Prefecture. The Yuzheng 202 and 32501 ships, which belong to the Chinese Agriculture Ministry, were seen cruising about 56 kilometers north-northwest of Uotsurijima island at about 7:20 a.m. Both ships entered the Japanese contiguous zone surrounding the nation's territorial waters by about 8:20 a.m., about 44 kilometers north-northwest of Uotsurijima. [Source: Jiji Press, April 6, 2012]

Earlier the Jiji reported: “Two Chinese maritime surveillance ships approached the Japan-controlled Senaku Islands in the East China Sea and one of them briefly entered Japan's territorial waters, the Japan Coast Guard said. The two patrol vessels -- the Haijian 50 and Haijian 66 -- arrived in waters near the Senkaku Islands, which China calls Diaoyu, the coast guard said. The Haijian 50, entered Japanese territorial waters at around 9:38 a.m. and left at around 10:03 a.m. after a Japanese patrol boat issued a warning to leave, it said. [Ibid]

Tokyo Gov. Ishihara’s Plan to Buy the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands

In April 2012 Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara said he planned to use public money to buy the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands, a group of resource-rich islands known in China as the Diaoyu. They islands are are controlled by Japan, but claimed by China and Taiwan. also of islands at the centre of a dispute between Japan and China. The move was condemned by Chinese officials as illegal. Later Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said that the Japanese government would buy the islands. [Source: BBC, April 16, 2012]

“Ishihara, who is known for being outspoken, made the claim during a speech at the Heritage Foundation, a think-tank in Washington, the BBC reported. He said that he was in discussions with the private Japanese owner of three of the islands in the disputed chain. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in a statement that China had "indisputable sovereignty" over the islands, and that any unilateral action from Japan would be "illegal and invalid". [Ibid]

Takashi Shiraishi wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara should be held responsible for internationalizing the dispute over the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands by announcing his intention of having the Tokyo metropolitan government purchase the then privately owned island group in Okinawa Prefecture. [Source: Takashi Shiraishi, Yomiuri Shimbun, September 24, 2012. Shiraishi is president of both the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies and the Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization]

Upon learning that Shin Shin, a 6-year-old female panda at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo, may be pregnant. Ishihara joked that possible giant panda cubs at Tokyo's Ueno Zoo should be named after Japanese islands in the East China Sea that are claimed by China. "Why not name the babies Sen Sen and Kaku Kaku?" Ishihara said at a press conference, referring to the Senkaku Islands."This will give China control [of the Senkakus] when the baby pandas return to China," he said. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, June 30, 2012]

Hong Kong Activists Land on the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands

On August 15, 2012, Hong Kong activists reach the disputed islands by sea for the first time since 1996, with seven activists disembarking onto the island. Reuters reported; “Fourteen activists from China, Hong Kong and Macau travelled by boat to the group of islands, called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in China, on the emotionally charged anniversary of Japan's surrender at the end of the second world war. Five were arrested on the islands, and nine others detained on their boat, Japan's coastguard said earlier. [Ibid]

Several of the activists jumped into the sea, swam and waded ashore. The group said its boat had been rammed by the coastguard and hit with water cannon. A Japanese official denied that any serious damage had been done to the boat. Chinese media published photographs of the activists planting the country's flag on a rocky shore. "We've waited 10 years for this. We finally managed to get ashore," the captain of the protest ship was quoted as saying on Hong Kong television. [Ibid]

The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Video footage released two weeks after the event by the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) shows activists on a Hong Kong protest ship throwing bricks at a JCG patrol vessel as the two boats collided near the Senkaku Islands (known as Diaoyu Islands in China) on August 15. In the recording, the JCG's vessels obstructed the protest boat's course when it neared the island. However, the boat continued to sail straight. It ran aground and the activists disembarked. [Source: Daily Yomiuri, August 29, 2012]

The footage taken by the JCG also shows that the protest boat rushed to Uotsurijima Island in the Senkaku Islands, Okinawa Prefecture, where activists then landed, despite warnings by the JCG, and footage shows the protest boat was repeatedly warned by the JCG to refrain from intruding into Japan's territorial waters after it came within about 44 kilometres of the Senkaku Islands. JCG vessels sprayed water at the bridge of the protest boat. [Ibid]

Activists were recorded throwing chunks of brick at the JCG vessel. But a JCG official said, "We do not feel our officers were obstructed as we were able to continue our activities, which included spraying water." After watching the video, Democratic Party of Japan House of Representatives member Takashi Nagao said the government's response to the activists was lenient. "We must find if the government made clear its basic policy that their landing was never tolerated," he said. Liberal Democratic Party lower house member and former Defence Agency Director General Gen Nakatani said, "We need to revise the related laws so we can physically and firmly stop [illegal landings]."

Japan Purchases the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands

In early September 2012, the Japanese government announced that it was in the process of purchasing the disputed Senkaku-Diaoyu islands from a private Japanese owner, with the actual deal going through a few days later. The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “The government and the owner of three of the Senkaku Islands have agreed on the purchase of the islets for about 2.05 billion yen ($26 million), according to government sources. The Tokyo metropolitan government was initially considering buying the islands, but with the latest move by the central government, the islets will be put under state control. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, September 6, 2012]

The government will purchase the three islands of Uotsurijima, Kita-kojima and Minami-kojima from their owner in Saitama Prefecture, the sources said, By placing the islands under state control, the government is apparently carrying out its plan to "maintain the island chain peacefully and stably." In April, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara announced the metropolitan government's intention to buy the islands. The governor has maintained a tough stance on China, which also claims sovereignty over the Senkakus. Concerned about worsening relations between Japan and China, the central government is believed to have decided to independently proceed with negotiations to place the islands under state control. [Ibid]

After the government's purchase, the Japan Coast Guard will likely have jurisdiction over the islands, the sources said. The government will keep the islets as they are and not build anything on them, such as a lighthouse or a small port that can shelter boats during bad weather, which the metropolitan government had initially requested, the sources said. [Ibid]

Ishihara has expressed his willingness to accept the central government's decision to purchase three of the Senkaku Islands. "From the beginning, I intended to eventually give [the islands] to the central government. So I have no issue with the government buying them," the governor said Wednesday morning in front of his house. Asked about the donations the metropolitan government had collected for the purchase, which have topped 1.46 billion yen, Ishihara told reporters: "We've already come this far in collecting donations. If the government is buying the islands, we'll immediately hand over the money."

China Accuses Japan of Stealing Islands

Jane Perlez wrote in the New York Times, “The Chinese government accused Japan of stealing a group of disputed islands in the East China Sea, hours after the Japanese government announced that it had bought them from their private Japanese owners. In a show of strength, China sent two maritime law enforcement ships to the islands, which are known as the Diaoyu in China and the Senkaku in Japan. The ships, belonging to the China Marine Surveillance, are commonly deployed in the South China Sea, where China and its neighbors have other territorial disputes over islands. [Source: Jane Perlez, New York Times, September 11. 2012]

Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency, said Tuesday that the marine agency had drafted an “action plan” for asserting China’s claim to the disputed islands. In an unusual array of strong statements by top leaders in recent days, China has asserted that the islands have belonged to China since ancient times. Chinese president Hu Jintao warned the Japanese prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting in Russia that nationalizing the islands would be illegal, Xinhua reported. In a statement, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the purchase of the islands by the Japanese government “cannot alter the fact the Japanese side stole the islands from China.”

The confrontation between China and Japan comes as the Chinese government nears the start of a once-in-a-decade leadership transition at a Communist Party Congress expected to be held within weeks. Some Western analysts say they believe that the strong public defense of China’s territorial claims may be a way to deflect attention from an unusually rocky succession process by shaking up the strong Chinese nationalist feelings against Japan. [Ibid]

China, Taiwan Form 'Tag Team' and Engage in Giant Water Fight with Japan over Senkaku-Diaoyus

In late September 2012, several dozen 40 Taiwanese fishing boats traded water cannon fire with Japanese coast guard ships after Taiwan for the first time ventured into the disputed waters. Beijing gave it blessing to the incursion funded by business group active on both sides of strait Kazuhide Minamoto and Seima Oki wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun, “As 52 Taiwan fishing boats and patrol vessels entered Japan's territorial waters near the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands in Okinawa Prefecture on Tuesday, the news was being beamed back to Taiwan. "Approaching the 12 nautical miles of Tiaoyutai," one Taiwan reporter said as the flotilla approached the islands. Moments later, the reporter sent an update: "We're within 12 nautical miles of Tiaoyutai." [Source: Kazuhide Minamoto and Seima Oki, Yomiuri Shimbun, September 27, 2012]

Subtitles flashed on the screen as updates came in. With 62 Taiwan reporters aboard the ships, there was continuous coverage of the fleet as it played cat-and-mouse for several hours with Japan Coast Guard vessels in waters near the islands called Tiaoyutai in Taiwan and Diaoyutai in China. When JCG patrol ships began spraying water at the Taiwan fishing boats, Taiwan Coast Guard Administration patrol boats that were accompanying the fleet replied by firing their water cannons at the JCG vessels. Taiwan TV reporters described the tense exchange as it happened in front of them. [Ibid]

Anti-Japan Protests Erupt in China over the Senkaku-diaoyu Dispute in August, September 2012

Keith Bradsher, Martin Fackler, and Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times: “Anti-Japanese protests spread across China over the landing of Japanese activists on a disputed island and the treatment of activists from Hong Kong, Macau and China who had landed on the same island. Protesters took to the streets in nearly a dozen Chinese cities in up and down China’s eastern provinces, according to Xinhua, the official news agency. [Source: Keith Bradsher, Martin Fackler, and Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, August 19, 2012]

The Chinese state news media portrayed the demonstrations as fairly small, each involving fewer than 200 people, and not extending to inland provinces. But photographs posted on Sina Weibo, the country’s most widely used microblogging service, suggested that the crowds had been far larger. In one photo said to be from the southwestern city of Chengdu, deep in China’s interior, the number of protesters appeared to be in the thousands “Defend the Diaoyu Islands to the death,” one banner said. Another said, “Even if China is covered with graves, we must kill all Japanese.” Another photograph showed a handwritten sign taped to the entrance of Suning, a popular electronics store, telling customers it was no longer selling Japanese products. [Ibid]

Some protests appear to have turned violent. According to several postings, demonstrators on Sunday attacked sushi restaurants or other businesses perceived to have a Japanese connection. Several photographs said to be from Shenzhen, across the border from Hong Kong, showed what appeared to be damaged or overturned cars---most of them Japanese models---as well as several police vehicles. [Ibid]

The demonstrations appeared to be sanctioned and chaperoned by the police, who generally prohibit public protests unless they suit the needs of the Communist Party. In the past, Beijing has allowed nationalist sentiment to bubble up into street demonstrations, but the authorities usually keep them contained out of concern they might spiral out of control or turn into popular antigovernment sentiment. While many postings on microblogs expressed rage against the Japanese, a significant number criticized the Chinese government for its timidity. Many such postings, however, were promptly deleted. Confrontations between Japan and China on or near the contested islands have the potential to become larger international incidents. [Ibid]

Altogether anti-Japan rallies were held in more than 25 Chinese cities on August 19 in response to Japan's arrest of Chinese activists who landed on one of the islands on August 15. [Ibid] AFP reported: “Protests broke out in at least six Chinese cities after Japanese nationalists landed on an island claimed by both countries. More than a hundred people gathered near the Japanese consulate in China's southern city of Guangzhou, chanting "Japan get out of the Diaoyu Islands," the official Xinhua news agency said. In nearby Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, protesters gathered at an outdoor plaza, waving Chinese flags and shouting slogans, Xinhua said, but did not give the number of participants. [Source: AFP, August 19, 2012]

Zhang Pei, one participant, said protesters were marching towards the train station on the border with Hong Kong. "The demonstration is strung out for seven to eight kilometres. Many police are escorting us along the street," he told AFP. He could not give an estimate of the number of protesters, but said participants were swelling as the march continued. Xinhua said protests also took place in four other cities, including eastern Hangzhou and Qingdao, as well as the north-eastern cities of Shenyang and Harbin. [Ibid]

Anti-Japan protests have broken out in several cities in the past week, including the capital Beijing, Shanghai, Qingdao, Binzhou and Shandong, state media and witnesses said. Hundreds gathered in the northern city of Xian to protest over the detention of 14 pro-China activists and journalists who had sailed from Hong Kong to land on the islands, Xinhua said in a separate report. [Ibid]

Car Carrying Japan Ambassador to China “Attacked

In early September 2012, A man attacked the car carrying the Japanese ambassador in Beijing on Monday and ripped off the Japanese flag flying on the vehicle, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported, amid escalating tensions that led to the biggest anti-Japan protests in years. Kyodo, quoting Japanese embassy officials in Beijing, gave no further details of the attack, but said the ambassador, Uichiro Niwa, was unhurt. The report said the embassy had "filed a strong protest with the Chinese Foreign Ministry". [Source: Reuters, September 6, 2012]

A Yomiuri Shimbun editorial read: :We hope the Chinese government will take appropriate actions to prevent the recurrence of an incident that insulted Japan. An official car carrying Japanese Ambassador to China Uichiro Niwa was attacked recently in Beijing, and the Japanese national flag on it was stolen. Chinese authorities have identified four suspects, including one woman, but the authorities have just been questioning them without detention. This incident seems to have been caused by rising anti-Japanese sentiment within China, which was ignited by Hong Kong activists illegally landing on the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands. Stealing the Japanese national flag is nothing but a blatant insult to this country. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, September 2, 2012)

An opinion survey conducted by a Chinese portal site on the Internet showed that 80 percent of respondents supported the attack on the Japanese ambassador's car. It is alarming for Japan that many people praised the attack, calling the suspects "heroes." There is a slogan in China that a patriotic act should not be considered a crime. However, it is certainly a problem that the destruction of Japanese cars and restaurants by anti-Japan demonstrators is virtually permitted in that nation. We must point out that the strong effects on young people of the patriotic education by Chinese authorities are behind the radicalization of the opinions they express on the Internet due to anti-Japanese sentiment. [Ibid]

Tensions After Japan Purchases the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands

The day after the purchase of the islands, Jiji Press reported: “The Japanese government's purchase of three of the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands sparked protests in China. Hundreds of protesters marched in Weihai in the eastern province of Shandong, holding a banner saying that the East China Sea islands are China's territory. Photographs of young Chinese carrying banners showing slogans such as "Boycott Japanese goods" and "Down with Japanese Imperialism" have been posted on the Internet. Other photos showed youths marching with China's national flag and cars festooned with flags. In Beijing, about 20 protesters gathered in front of the Japanese Embassy. [Ibid]

Meanwhile, China's National Defense Ministry hinted Tuesday at possible retaliation against Japan. China's government and military have a sternly and unwaveringly resolved to protect the territory and sovereignty of China, ministry spokesman Geng Yangsheng said in a statement. The next day six Chinese surveillance ships sailed into waters around the Diaoyu Islands to assert China’s territorial claims and for “law enforcement”, leaving after seven hours.

Katsufumi Mano wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun, “Japan Coast Guard patrol ships and Chinese surveillance ships continue squaring off against each other in waters off the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands. Chinese surveillance ships first appeared in the area on September 14, three days after Japan nationalized three of the islands. Six marine surveillance ships belonging to the Chinese State Oceanic Administration lingered in Japanese territorial waters for about seven hours, with a fisheries surveillance ship following suit. Altogether, the ships stayed in the waters for five days, and in the contiguous zone from Oct. 1 to Oct. 10. Taiwanese fishing boats and patrol vessels also encroached on this area. [Source: Katsufumi Mano, Yomiuri Shimbun, October 13, 2012]

To deal with the situation, the JCG sent reinforcements from its headquarters nationwide to support the 11th Regional Japan Coast Guard Headquarters in Naha, which is in charge of patrolling the area. The Naha headquarters is capable of deploying about 30 vessels at once when necessary, However, their 1,000-ton-class patrol vessels can only stay at sea for a maximum of one week. Though these ships have taken turns conducting patrols, the arrangements have started affecting other operations. The JCG is in the process of building nine 1,000-ton or larger patrol vessels, and has asked for funds to build four more next fiscal year. It also requested 150 more personnel, on top of its 12,600. However, its fleet will not see a large increase, as some of the new vessels will replace old ones. A senior JCG officer said, "It's time to consider ongoing reinforcements for our operations."

China is apparently trying to expand its maritime interests in other areas as well. It has marine surveillance ships in seas around the Scarborough Shoal, which is claimed by both China and the Philippines. China apparently is stepping up pressure against Japan in waters around the Senkaku-Diaoyus, as China Marine Surveillance (CMS) ships from its east fleet and its north fleet, which usually patrols areas including the Yellow Sea and the Bo Hai, have been spotted in the area. [Ibid]

Second Wave of Anti-Japan Protests Erupt in China Over the Senkaku-Diaoyu Dispute, in September 2012

On September 15, 2012, the biggest anti-Japanese protests since China and Japan normalised diplomatic relations in 1972 were held in cities across China. The Japanese embassy in Beijing was besieged by thousands of protesters throwing rocks, eggs and bottles. The next day anti-Japanese protests broke out in dozens of mainland cities for a second day. In some cities peaceful protests turned violent as protesters clash with policemen, attack Japanese made cars and smash up Japanese restaurants. China’s state-run news media has made repeated calls for the islands to be given to China, which claims that it controlled them before Japan’s colonial expansion in the late 19th century.

By one count anti-Japanese demonstrations were held in more than 50 cities on September 15 and over 100 cities on September 16 as protesters smashed Japanese cars, looted Japanese stores and attacked Japanese companies. Ian Johnson and Thom Shanker wrote in the New York Times, “Anti-Japanese demonstrators took to the streets again in cities across China, with the government offering mixed signals on whether it would continue to tolerate the sometimes violent outbursts. The protests were orderly in Beijing, with several hundred people circling in front of the Japanese Embassy demanding Chinese control over a small island group known as Senkaku in Japan and as Diaoyu in China. Protests were also reported in other cities, including Shanghai, Guangzhou and Qingdao. [Source: Ian Johnson and Thom Shanker, New York Times, September 16, 2012]

The day before “protests occurred in more than 50 cities, with some violence reported. A factory for the Panasonic Corporation was set on fire in Qingdao, and a Toyota dealership was looted, according to photographs posted on social media sites and local residents reached by telephone. Across China, calls have grown for boycotts of Japanese products. Many Japanese retailers and restaurants have been forced to place signs in their windows supporting China, and Japan’s prime minister asked China to protect Japanese and their property. [Ibid]

At the height of the violence, dozens of Japanese businesses were attacked, including 7-Eleven shops. Hundreds of Japanese model cars were overturned or burned. Dexter Roberts of Bloomberg wrote: The buzz of government helicopters circling over China’s capital disrupted already tangled traffic on September 15, with drivers stopping to look up at the rare sight as hundreds of riot police blocked streets around the Japanese Embassy in northeastern Beijing. Some 2,500 demonstrators marched, some carrying pictures of Mao, while others pelted the consulate with eggs and plastic water bottles and rushed at police barricades. Fires broke out in a Panasonic (PC) electronics parts plant and a Toyota Motor (TM) dealership in the coastal city of Qingdao after protests there, the companies said on 16. To date, there has been no confirmation as to who set the blaze. Both have shut operations temporarily. As a protective gesture, Japanese restaurants and offices have responded by prominently displaying the Chinese national flag outside their doors. [Source: Dexter Roberts, Bloomberg, September 17, 2012]

Given the curious timing of the latest explosion of anti-Japan feeling, some are wondering whether there is any connection to the ongoing once-in-a-decade leadership transition, with a key Communist Party Congress, A still-unexplained two-week-long disappearance by future President Xi Jinping sparked concern over his health and set off speculation. The top theory is that China’s leadership may be encouraging the nationalist outpouring to distract attention from continuing dissension at home, including debates over who will ultimately be named to China’s nine-member reigning body, the Politburo Standing Committee. Also key is how the leadership deals with the still unresolved case of popular “princeling” and former Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, whose wife was given a suspended death sentence for murdering a British businessmen. [Ibid]

Meanwhile, there are signs that Beijing is keen to ensure things don’t get out of control. State media has warned against violence and at least one city, Xian, in western China, has banned some “illegal” protests. “Violence cannot be tolerated simply because the protests are aimed at Japan,” the state-run Global Times newspaper wrote on Sept. 17. “Violence can only weaken the current campaign against Japan.” “When the sovereign territory of the Mother Country is subjected to provocation, our anger is irrepressible, and the enthusiasm of the youth of China must have release. These patriotic feelings are precious, and they must be cherished and protected,” wrote the People’s Daily in an editorial on Sept. 17. “But a civilized attitude abiding by rule of law should be the basic conduct of the citizenry. Doing damage to the legal property of one’s countrymen and venting one’s anger on the heads of Japanese citizens in China is extremely inappropriate.”

Japanese Press Reports Japanese Assaulted in Shanghai

Yasuharu Seki wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: The Japanese Consulate General in Shanghai has issued a warning regarding the spate of assaults on Japanese nationals by Chinese in the city--four of which have resulted in injury--since the government decided to nationalize the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands.On its website, the consulate general called for Japanese residents and tourists in Shanghai to take precautions.[Source: Yasuharu Seki, Yomiuri Shimbun, September 15, 2012]

The website and other sources cited one instance in which a Japanese national walking in downtown Shanghai was kicked in the legs several times by a Chinese resident, causing bruises. The incident occurred after the Chinese asked if the person was Japanese. In another case, a group of Japanese dining at midnight were hassled by some Chinese and assaulted. Additionally, a Japanese national riding in a taxi was followed by a motorcyclist, who demanded the taxi driver force the Japanese passenger from the car, the consulate general said. [Ibid]

The consulate general also cited another instance when several Japanese walking on a sidewalk were harassed by Chinese residents who called them "Japanese," and one threw noodles at a Japanese, resulting in injuries. Another broke and stole a Japanese national's glasses. [Ibid]

A few days later, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Japanese and Chinese employees working for a Japanese-affiliated firm in China were attacked by a group of Chinese and injured at a Japanese restaurant in Shanghai, it has been learned. According to the Japanese Consulate General in the city and other sources, the employees were having a meal at the restaurant. They were chatting at the table in Japanese when a group of four or five Chinese confronted them, purportedly because they were annoyed with the language. One of the Chinese threw a beer bottle at the diners, and the Chinese group began beating and kicking them. During the assault, a Chinese employee of the Japanese-affiliated firm suffered a hand wound when slashed with a knife, while some of the Japanese employees sustained minor injuries. None of them were hospitalized. The local police had detained some of the perpetrators as of Monday, after the consulate general reported the incident. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, October 17, 2012]

China Tries to Hurt Japan Economically over the Senkaku-Diaoyu Issue

During the anti-Japanese protests over the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands in September 2012 protesters smashed Japanese cars, looted Japanese stores and attacked Japanese companies and called for boycotts of Japanese businesses and products. Some major Japanese firms such as Toyota and Honda temporarily shut factories and offices across China.

Louise Watt of Associated Press wrote: “Protesters torched a Panasonic factory and Toyota dealership in the eastern port of Qingdao, looted a Heiwado Co. department store in the southern city of Changsha and ransacked Japanese supermarkets in several cities. Though larger numbers of police imposed more order on demonstrations, they fired tear gas to subdue rowdy protesters in the southern city of Shenzhen. In nearby Guangzhou city, protesters broke into a hotel that was next to the Japanese Consulate and damaged a Japanese restaurant inside. [Source: Louise Watt, Associated Press, September 17, 2012]

Japan has demanded that China ensure the safety of Japanese citizens and businesses. "Unfortunately, this is an issue that is impacting the safety of our citizens and causing damage to the property of Japanese businesses," Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told NHK, Japan's public broadcaster. [Ibid]

China's National Tourism Administration ordered travel companies last week to cancel tours to Japan over the weeklong National Day holiday in early October and promised to compensate any businesses for costs they could not recover, said a lawyer who saw the written order and asked not to be identified because the document is not for public use. The scale and violence are the worst in recurring waves of anti-Japanese protests since 2005, when lingering grievances over Japan's occupation of parts of China in the 1930s through World War II brought Chinese into the streets. Since then, China's economy has supplanted Japan's as the world's second largest and its diplomatic clout and military firepower have soared. State broadcaster China Central Television on Sunday showed Chinese naval forces conducting firing drills in the East China Sea, though it did not give a date for the exercises. [Ibid]

State media, which answer to the ruling Communist Party, joined ordinary Chinese in calling for boycotts of Japanese goods. One regional newspaper ran a list of well-known Japanese brands along with calls for a boycott. China Central Television halted advertisements for Japanese products on two of its main channels over the weekend, according to China National Radio. [Ibid]Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn told reporters in Hong Kong last week that though so far the dispute had not had a discernible impact on sales in China, it might if it degenerates "into something more serious."

Perry Link wrote in the New York Review of Books, Chinese protests have reached some peculiar extents. A Chinese clothing store called Pattad offers a 15 percent discount to anyone who enters and yells, “The Diaoyu Islands belong to China!” (You get 20 percent off if you yell “Japan belongs to China!”) A boy interviewed on the street says, “When I grow up I want to build tanks to annihilate Japan.” [Source: Perry Link, New York Review of Books, September 20, 2012]

Japanese Books Removed from Sale by China in Row over Islands

Alison Flood wrote in The Guardian, “China and Japan both lay claim to the disputed islands  known as theSenkaku islands in Japan and as the Diaoyu islands in China  as does Taiwan. The dispute has now spread to the literary sphere, with bookshops in Beijing removing books by Japanese authors from their shelves,according to reports. [Source: Alison Flood, The Guardian, September 25, 2012]

The popular Wangfujing bookstore has pulled Chinese versions of Haruki Murakami's bestseller 1Q84, as well as other Japanese authors' titles, said the Japan Times. "We don't sell Japanese books," said a shop clerk, adding, "I don't know much about the reason, but perhaps it is because China-Japan relations are not good." Another large Beijing store was also getting rid of books by Japanese authors and those relating to Japan, according to Japanese newspaper the Asahi Shimbun. "It's because of the deteriorating ties between China and Japan," a bookseller was quoted as saying. [Ibid]

The Asahi Shimbun reported that the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Press and Publication had instructed publishers not to release books relating to Japan, or by Japanese authors, an allegation denied by the bureau. A source told the Guardian that at times of heightened sensitivity, it is common practice for the Chinese government to instruct retailers on what they can and can't sell. "There are instructions from time to time, especially at moments of internal instability, such as this, but they will be short-lived," said the source. [Ibid]

China’s Boycotts IMF Meeting Held in Japan

In October 2012 failed to send high-level representatives to annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank held in 2012 in Tokyo in what seemed to be a boycott of the meetings because they were held in Japan. AFP reported: “China’s top level boycott of global financial meetings in Japan is a sign of things to come, analysts say, as an economically emboldened Beijing shows struggling Western nations it doesn’t need to play by their rules.[Source: AFP, October 14, 2012]

But while Tokyo was graced with global financial luminaries such as Timothy Geithner from the US and Wolfgang Schaeuble from Germany, China’s finance minister and central bank chief both stayed at home. Beijing gave no official reason for sending their deputies, with foreign minister Yang Jiechi telling reporters in Beijing only that “the arrangement of the delegation for the meeting was completely appropriate”. [Ibid]

Observers say China’s stay-away was the result of a spat with Japan over disputed islands, and points to Beijing’s calculated willingness to use its financial muscle to make a political point. “China made this decision by precisely weighing the disadvantages of the no-shows against the advantages of its presence,” said Yoshikiyo Shimamine, executive chief economist at Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute in Tokyo. “It was an example of how China won’t always act within the framework and doesn’t see any contradiction between such absences and its responsibility as a major power,” he said. [Ibid]

IMF chief Christine Lagarde rapped Beijing, saying it would “lose out” by not showing up, while World Bank President Jim Yong Kim urged the two countries to sort out their differences for the good of the global economy. China merely shrugged. In his report to a key committee that advises the IMF board, deputy central bank governor Yi Gang said the failure by Washington and Tokyo to fix their fiscal problems was the reason the global economy was struggling. “Uncertainties related to fiscal sustainability weigh on sentiment and confidence, negatively affecting consumption, investment, and hiring decisions,” Yi said. [Ibid]

Image Sources: 1) Visualizing Culture, MIT Education 2) 3) History Wiz 4) 5) 6) 7) University of Texas maps, 8) Getty Images

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated December 2012

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