Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The
Japanese Prime Minister says his nation will defend its territory "at all
costs" and, in particular, the disputed islands in the East China Sea,
after a series of disputes with Beijing raised fears of a concrete risk of armed conflict. The
declarations by the new Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe were contained in a speech
in front of the defense forces in the south of Japan. While
not mentioning the territories at the center of the dispute, for the experts he
was referring to the Senkaku / Diaoyu that seem to be the a "real
threat" to peace in the Asia-Pacific region.
In his speech, the Japanese prime minister stressed that "the territorial security of our country is increasingly at risk" because of "continued provocations" about our "legitimate rights". Abe also assured that he will maintain a "firm " and uncompromising position against the "present danger" and "protect the lives and property of the Japanese people, as well as the land, seas and airspace." The reference, though not explicit, is to Beijing's maritime claims in the area. Japan has launched a series of diplomatic initiatives to ease tensions with China, sending among others officials - close to the government leadership - to the Chinese capital.
For several months, Tokyo and Beijing have been at a standoff over the sovereignty of this group of islands in the East China Sea, sending ships, coast guards, vessels and aircraft. The Japanese Ministry of Defense has "considered" the possibility of authorizing its air force to shoot Chinese planes that violate Japanese airspace. On the back of these continuous provocations Beijing is attempting to "test [...] the reaction of Japan" and to "put pressure on the government to make it clear that there is still a territorial dispute."
Known by the Chinese as Diaoyu and Senkaku by the Japanese, the islands have been in dispute for many years.More recently, the Japanese government bought the islands from a private owner. For China, this was a "provocation", further exacerbated by Tokyo's decision to send planes over the area. In response, China sent its own planes for the first time since 1958.
The value of the islands remains unclear. They are strategically located because they are in the middle of major sea routes. The waters offer rich fishing grounds and the seabed around the islands could hold important natural gas reserves. In 2008, as a token of détente, the two governments signed an agreement for joint development and research on the islands, but it was never implemented.