News / Asia

Japan Awaits China's Next Move On Disputed Islands

The string of islands known as Senkaku islands in Japanese, and Diaoyu in Chinese (2010 file photo)
The string of islands known as Senkaku islands in Japanese, and Diaoyu in Chinese (2010 file photo)
Terry Wing
Japanese patrol boats are circling a small group of islands in the East China Sea, guarding against any encroachment by Chinese ships sent by Beijing to invoke its claim of sovereignty over the islands.

Japan’s Asahi Shimbun reported Wednesday two vessels from China Marine Surveillance were at the border of Japan’s and China’s exclusive economic zones, but reported the Chinese ships were not moving toward the islands.

China's Xinhua state news agency said the deployment was based on an action plan drawn up to protect China's sovereignty.

 “We’re nearing very dangerous territory in that sense because both countries are activating their patrol activities in the same areas,"  said Yoichiro Sato, director of the Japan-based International Strategic Studies at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University.  "The possibility of accidental incidents between the two security forces is rising with these recent activities,” he said.
The Senkaku/Diaoyu IslandsThe Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands
The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands
The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands
Tokyo annexed the eight-island chain it calls the Senkakus in 1895, and then re-acquired them from the United States in a post-WWII treaty.  Beijing calls the island group Diaoyu, and claims it has been part of its territory since ancient times.
Both capitals have ratcheted up rhetoric over the islands in recent weeks and neither side has indicated willingness to compromise.

Nationalists have pressed for Japanese ownership, beginning with a move led by Tokyo’s Governor Shintaro Ishihara to raise enough money to buy the islands from a private Japanese owner.   
On September 11, Tokyo ignored warnings by Beijing when it completed purchase of the Senkakus. 

Geng Yansheng, a defense ministry spokesman, said on Tuesday "The Chinese government and armed forces stand firm and are unshakable in their determination to safeguard the nation's sovereignty and territory."

China Japan Protest Aug 15, 2012China Japan Protest Aug 15, 2012
China Japan Protest Aug 15, 2012
China Japan Protest Aug 15, 2012
There is a potential for conflict because when nationalisms are rife, as were seeing in both China and Japan, people begin to behave extremely irrationally and that's what we’re seeing,” said Jamie Metzl, senior fellow at the New York-based Asia Society.
“What needs to happen is a cooling off period followed by negotiations,” said Metzl.  “But it's very difficult to have negotiations when certain countries, most particularly China, in effect are rejecting the principles of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea.”
“If international law doesn't fully apply, then the question is what does apply and it tends to be the law of the jungle,” said Metzl. 
Metzl doesn’t foresee a naval conflict between China and Japan.  Most experts agree neither nation is likely to spill blood over a few uninhabited islands.
The dispute is evidence of what Metzl calls a new post-American era in the Asia-Pacific region.
“China is flexing its muscles to not only pressure other countries, but to test the relationship between some of these countries - particularly Japan and the United States,” said Metzl. 
The United States’ position on the ownership of the islands is unclear, although it does refer to them as Senkaku. 
In response to a question from a Japanese reporter this week, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland asserted the U.S. has no position on who owns the islands, but she did say Washington stands by the treaty under which they were returned to the Japanese in 1971.
But the United States does have mutual defense obligations to Japan, and if China does press its claims over the islands with force, Japan would expect the United States to honor its security commitments and come to its defense. 
“The U.S. will have no choice because the credibility of the alliance, not only with Japan but with other allies, will be at stake at that point,” said Sako. “The US doesn't want to put itself into that kind of situation.”

Sato said what makes sense at this point is for the United States to deter China with a stronger verbal commitment to Japan.

You May Like

Obama: Action on Climate Change 'Economic, Security Imperative'

President spoke to reporters on sidelines of UN Climate Summit outside Paris, where leaders are working to agree on binding measures

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

UNICEF: Hidden Epidemic of HIV Among Adolescents

Researchers warn that Asia Pacific nations facing sharp rise in incidence of HIV among adolescents

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs