News / Asia

Japan Mulls Next Steps in Island Spat with China

A man looks at photos showing the disputed island of Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China during Diaoyu Island dispute conference in Chungho, Taipei county, September 11, 2010.
A man looks at photos showing the disputed island of Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China during Diaoyu Island dispute conference in Chungho, Taipei county, September 11, 2010.
VOA News
Japan is considering what do with 14 Chinese activists who were arrested after landing on a disputed island, further upsetting ties between the two Asian neighbors.

The activists landed Wednesday on the island in the East China Sea, planting a Chinese flag and singing the country's national anthem before being promptly arrested and accused of violating immigration laws.

Japan is sending the activists to Okinawa for questioning, and is reportedly considering deportation as a way to defuse the feud with Beijing. China has lodged a formal complaint and demanded their unconditional release.

Japan and China's Disputed Islands

  • Known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese
  • Uninhabited archipelago of 8 islands  
  • Located in gas-rich area and surrounded by rich fishing grounds
  • The islands have a land area of about 6 square kilometers
The uninhabited islands, known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyo in Chinese, are a frequent flashpoint between Tokyo and Beijing.  They are located in a gas-rich area and surrounded by rich fishing grounds.

The landing came on the same day as the anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II, a date that often sparks regional tensions.

China's state-run Global Times says the 14 activists brought a "sense of relief" to the Chinese people on the sensitive anniversary, saying such actions "are being backed by the state." The editorial repeated Beijing's insistence that it would not accept prosecution of the activists.

A small but emotional demonstration broke out Thursday outside Japan's consulate in Hong Kong, where the Chinese fishing vessel took off from earlier this week. Some of the protesters, including politician Elizabeth Quat, called for the activists' release.

"I feel very angry and I find this very unacceptable," she said. "We have three requests. We request the Japanese government to release our Hong Kong citizens immediately. Second, get away from our land. Third, apologize to all of the Chinese people in the world."

In Japan, Tokyo's Governor Shintaro Ishihara, who has been outspoken on the issue, dismissed those suggestions. He says the activists should be put on trial and that Japanese Prime Minister Yosihiko Noda should visit the islands personally to emphasize Japan's claim.

"This was an illegal entry. They even alerted us beforehand, so it was a premeditated crime," said Ishihara. "So, as Prime Minister [Noda] said, [they should be dealt with] based on the law."

Japan and China, which boast strong economic ties, hope to avoid a repeat of a 2010 incident, when Japan arrested the captain of a Chinese fishing boat that collided with a Japanese coast guard vessel near the same islands.

Tokyo eventually released the captain, but only after Beijing suspended shipments of rare earth minerals to Japan and postponed talks on the joint development of undersea natural gas fields.

Jeffrey Kingston, an Asia studies professor at Tokyo's Temple University, says another issue complicating the dispute is that the Tokyo governor has said he wants to purchase the disputed islands.

"[Japan's] central government has moved in to say 'You can't buy it, we want to buy it.' And meanwhile China is looking on, nonplussed, saying 'This is besides the point. This is Chinese territory,'" said Kingston.

The islands were administered by the United States from the end of World War II until they were transferred back to Japan in 1972. They represent not only important natural resources, but also a source of national pride in both Japan and China.

While the impasse seems to be serious at the moment, analysts expect it will eventually die down, being partly being driven by domestic politics and impending leadership transitions in both countries.

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Comment Sorting
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
August 17, 2012 2:25 AM
China is only a spoilt child. What it should do is just simple, to show in public the proper reasons for having the rights to govern the islets on the basis of history and international law. Why does not it appeal their historical and legal positions rationally to international society?
How about stopping throwing the tantrum? If not, it means the Chinese are still primitive, not-rational and not-civilized people. It's their own sham. Chinese people should get aware that their thoughtless actions erupting only ther emotions leading to no trritorial resolution are abused by central government to control citizen's awareness of humanitarian rights.
In Response

by: oba from: hongkong
August 18, 2012 5:37 AM
Well,just watch around the history for last 60years,then you will know why the Japan has much trouble with its neighbors,the islands was invaded and taken during the II war
In Response

by: liang from: china
August 18, 2012 12:10 AM
Do you know the history ,do you know the fact ?If not ,please shut up!Look like you know everything!
In Response

by: Samurai from: Japan
August 17, 2012 8:12 AM
I fully agree with Yoshi. Chinese people must get aware that their unethical, greedy, and lawless actions demonstrate their empty heads. Chinese, please do not make any trouble more!

by: jackie chan from: China
August 16, 2012 10:47 PM
imagine what USA would do if its territory is invaded by other countries?

by: r s sarma from: mysore, india
August 16, 2012 6:12 AM
China is getting abusingly intransigent in its designs across borders, be it India, Tibet, Taiwan or Japan or wherever. China has always been arrogant to the core with all its economic growth, military might and exchange reserves that easily shies away the USA. It needs to be contained for global peace in the coming decades with every collective move to thwart its designs on global dominance. The USA, Russia, Japand an, countries in the region including India should come together for a strategic partnership. China has always been unreliable in neighbours' interests except Pakistan and its clout and evil designs are oly spreading. USA trusted pakistan and learnt its bitter lesson and now it is China's turn in backstabbing the world wherever its interests are concerned.
In Response

by: Temujin from: San Diego
August 17, 2012 1:20 AM
Chinese are very shrewd and serious threat to Asia and the world as its economy and military grow stronger. They invaded Tibet and Ughur when they were still weak. They invaded into West Philippines Sea and Sea of Japan as they grew stronger. Who know what they are going to claim as their territories in the near future: Russia Siberia? Australia? The Philippines? Vietnam? half of the Pacific Ocean? or all of the above? War with China is the only way to stop their future expansion and break up China into smaller states in the name of peace and security for the region and around the world.
In Response

by: Hoang from: Canada
August 16, 2012 12:18 PM
I agree. China must stopped now. They distort history and invaded Tibet and Spartly and Paracel islands from Vietnam. They kill innocent Vietnamese fishermen. They planted Chinese flag near Phillipines shores. Look how agressive China now when it is not nearly as powerful as the U.S. economicall and millitarily. Imagine what China would do if it catches up to the U.S.
In Response

by: warisstupid from: United States
August 16, 2012 10:47 AM
If you actively contain any great power, its going to be war, possibly on the nuclear scale leaving India, China, USA, and Japan non existent. So much for the strategic partnership eh? Is war what you want? If so, I hope you are willing to lay down your life to contain them!
In Response

by: Jonathan huang from: Canada
August 16, 2012 9:55 AM
China has good relations with most of her neighbors, such as Russa, NK, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan, Burma Laos Nepal, we signed treaties and we respect each others boundary. And China is improving the economical ties with those neighbors. China is not having war with any neighbor, but India on the other hands is still on war with Pakistan and trying to provoke China. That is really stupid for India.
In Response

by: Jonathan huang from: Canada
August 16, 2012 9:43 AM
Japan is the worst country talking of aggressive. It is having conflicts with almost all it's neighbors including russia with north islands, Korea with Douko, China with Diaoyu. If US doesn't have army on its land, I guess Japan gonna claim Guams and Hawaii also.
Japan is still worshiping those war criminals from WWII, shame on Japan.

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