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
    x
    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
    x
    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

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora