Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Japanese Ministry of Defense "is considering" the possibility of authorizing its air force to shoot at Chinese planes violating Japanese airspace. This according to Japanese media reports, which claim the Ministry has already alerted the Chief of Staff, and invited him to consider the possibility. This is the last (in time) step in the escalation of tension that sees Tokyo and Beijing in opposition over disputed islands in the South China Sea.
The islands, known as Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese, are at the center of an international controversy lasting several years, but which - in recent months - has significantly worsened. After a series of reciprocal claims, the Japanese government purchased the islands from a private individual who held possession: for China, the act is "a provocation" which was followed by riots in front of the embassy and a series of military interventions that have repeatedly come very close to a military incident.
Since the sale was completed, last September, the number of Chinese aircraft approaching the islands has increased exponentially. The Sankei newspaper, which reported the news of the authorization to shoot, cites an anonymous defense official: "In some periods, the Chinese aircraft have violated our airspace for three days in a row."
Professor Liu Jiangyong, an expert on international relations based at Qinghua University, believes the maneuver is useless: "The Chinese airforce will not be intimidated by warning shots. They will continue to fly there where they want to, including the airspace over the Diaoyu Islands. "
The value of the archipelago is not clear. It is believed that it is of strategic value firstly, being on the most important shipping routes, others argue that in addition to the rich fishing waters, the subsoil contains endless gas fields. In 2008, as a gesture of detente, the two governments signed an agreement for the joint exploitation and research in the archipelago, which, however, remained merely words on paper.