For decades, China and Japan have not been able to settle the dispute on the Diaoyu Islands (Senkaku). Both countries consider the islands their own territory and find various historical reasons to prove their rightness. Numerous talks and meetings were conducted at the highest level, but the issue remains unresolved. A month ago, the territorial dispute flared up again. What can it lead to?
China believes that Japan stole the islands
Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, speaking at a session of the UN General Assembly, accused Japan of stealing the Diaoyu Islands (Senkaku in Japanese) from China. "The actions of Japan are illegal and unacceptable. The Japanese authorities can not change history, which implies that Japan had stolen the Diaoyu, and subsequently annexed the islands belonging to China," said Yang Jiechi on Friday. "China strongly urges the Japanese government to immediately stop any activity that violates China's sovereignty, take certain actions to correct their mistakes and return to the way of negotiations to solve this problem," he added.
Beijing expressed disappointment with the behavior of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who made it clear that he had no plans to change his position on the Senkaku Islands.
"China strongly protests against the obstinacy of the Japanese leader, who takes a wrong position," the Chinese official said. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman also accused Japan of ignoring historical facts and international law. The relations between Japan and China deteriorated sharply after the Japanese government purchased (from a private owner) three of five islands of the archipelago.
Japan responded to the accusations
The Japanese government condemned the statements from Chinese diplomats, who accused Tokyo of stealing territories from China. The Japanese authorities noted that the Senkaku islands were historical Japanese land from the point of view of both history and international law.
"The statements from representatives of China ignore history. We can not agree with them. The Senkaku is our land that we owned at all times. Therefore, the current position of China on these islands is a one-sided position," the Secretary General of the Japanese Cabinet of Ministers, Yoshihide Suga said.
The essence of the territorial dispute
The Diaoyu Islands were discovered by the Chinese, but at the end of the 19th century, according to the results of the First Sino-Japanese War, the islands became the territory of Japan. Some time later, after Germany and Japan lost World War II, Japan lost the right to the conquered territory. The islands came under the jurisdiction of the United States. During the 1970s, Washington returned Okinawa and the Senkaku archipelago to Japan. Some analysts believe that the sea shelf in the region of the islands contains significant oil and gas reserves. The territorial dispute between China and Japan escalated in September 2012, when Tokyo announced the nationalization of the islands through the process of purchasing them from private owners. The move caused outrage in China: a wave of anti-Japanese demonstrations swept across the whole country. Since then, China regularly sends patrol vessels to the disputed territories, causing outrage in Japan.
In early 2013, Tokyo announced an intention to establish a special group for the protection of the islands. The group is expected to consist of several hundreds of officers and more than a dozen of patrol boats. In addition, the Japanese government, for the first time in the last eleven years, has increased army costs by $1.5 billion this year. Tokyo does not conceal the fact that the move followed as a response to Beijing that has been building up its military strength recently.
A few days ago, Beijing set forth new claims for the Japanese land. It goes about the Ryukyu Archipelago. According to Chinese General Liu Yuan, the archipelago has been paying tribute to China since 1372, i.e. 500 years before it became the territory of Japan. "The Ryukyu Islands definitely used to be a vassal state, - said the general, - I'm not saying that all former vassal states are Chinese, but it's safe to say that the Ryukyu Islands do not belong to Japan." According to many analysts, the talks of the Ryukyu affiliation is a new move of Beijing in the struggle for the islands of Senkaku.
U.S. adds more fuel to the fire
The United States is the ardent opponent of China's emerging dominance. The States strives in every way to reduce the power of the PRC, and a territorial conflict seems to be a good reason for it. Previously, the relations between Japan and China would mainly be confined to mutual accusations. However, with the advent of the Americans, saber rattling came into the picture. Japan and the U.S. develop a joint action plan to repel a potential Chinese attack on the disputed territories in the East China Sea.
On March 20th, a Pentagon spokesman said that General Shigeru Iwasaki, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of Japan, had a meeting with Samuel Locklear, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, to discuss the plan to repel a possible attack from China. In turn, Chinese General Liu Yuan said that there was no need to resort to military means to resolve the dispute. The government, he added, would do everything possible to avoid violence. But when the United States comes in, it is hard to maintain peace, because the USA has a fondness for wars.
The territorial dispute of Japan and China threatens Asian economies
The dispute between two Asian nations over a group of uninhabited islands has already affected the work of companies in various sectors of economy - from tourism to automotive industry. Experts suggest that the consequences of the conflict may lead to millions in losses for companies and worsen the position of leading Asian economies. Last week, for example, Mitsubishi Motors reduced its exports to China by 50 percent. According to the president of the Japanese company, the decision was taken due to the growing island dispute between Japan and China and because of China's boycott of Japanese goods. Major Japanese automakers say that their sales dropped in China considerably. For example, Mitsubishi's sales fell by 63 percent, Toyota's - by 49 percent, Suzuki's - 43 percent, Honda's - 41 percent, Nissan's and Mazda's - by 35 percent.
Last year, Japanese automakers sold 200,000 less cars in China than a year earlier. In the current year, the sales will reduce by 100,000 cars. Many experts say that the territorial dispute between Japan and China exacerbates the economic situation of these countries and leads to multi-billion dollar losses for large Japanese and Chinese companies.
A study by U.S. bank JPMorgan Chase showed that the island dispute between Japan and China affects not only the auto industry but tourism as well. The flow of Chinese tourists to Japan during the first quarter of the current year fell by 70 percent. Japan's profits from Chinese tourists dropped by 845 million dollars. The Japanese business community hopes that politicians will be able to find a compromise solution, and trade relations between Japan and China will recover.
The territorial dispute between China and Japan may "blow up" the region
Valery Kistanov, the head of the Center for Japan's Research of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies, believes that the conflict between China and Japan over the disputed islands could trigger similar disputes throughout the region. "If, God forbid, something serious happens around the Senkaku Islands, the domino effect of it will immediately affect other conflicts. Actually, the entire region will blow up," he said.
Noteworthy, the Diaoyu Islands (Senkaku Islands) is a bone of contention not only for China and Japan, but also for Taiwan. In addition, six countries in the South China Sea - China, Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei - are involved in the territorial dispute over the Spratly Islands. The Paracel Islands are disputed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan. The Liancourt Islands (Dokdo) in the Sea of Japan have been an apple of discord for many years between South Korea and Japan. To crown it all, Japan has an eye on the Kuril Islands that belong to Russia.
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