09/17/2012, 00.00
CHINA - JAPAN

Tensions rising over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands

A thousand Chinese fishing boats are preparing to sail to the disputed islands protected by six patrol boats. The operation will be a success, according to a military spokesperson. Chinese authorities continue to back tens of thousands of protesters attacking symbols of Japan. Leon Panetta visits Tokyo, urges the two countries to show restraint. China's People's Daily says Chinese sanctions could affect Japan's economy for up to 20 years.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Sending warships to the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands "achieved the goal of demonstrating China's sovereignty claim," said Xiao Huiwu, deputy chief of China Marine Surveillance (CMS) headquarters. This is an indication that Chinese leaders, military and protesters show a converging attitude towards Japanese claims to the disputed islands.

About a thousand Chinese fishing boats protected by six patrols ships already in the area were preparing to head to the disputed waters.

An unnamed Defence official said that the action was designed to make everyone understand that no one can mess around with Chinese territory.

This follows a statement last Thursday by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao who said that China would "never yield an inch" of its territory.

The islands' value is unclear though. They are strategically important for some since they lay astride major maritime routes. For others, fishing is important; whilst more think vast gas reserves lie under their seabed.

In 2008, in a good will gesture, the two countries agreed to develop the islands' resources together, but never implement the deal.

Initially peaceful rallies in more than 50 mainland cities over the Islands dispute turned ugly over the past two days with the consent of the authorities.

Japanese flags, cars and imported machinery have been burnt; stones and other objects have been thrown at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing without police intervention.

Demonstrations also occurred in the cities of Harbin, Nanjing, Hohhot, Changchun and Wuhan, and among overseas Chinese communities in Houston and Chicago, Xinhua reported.

Kyodo News said on Saturday that more than 40,000 people joined the demonstrations in 20 Chinese cities.

On Chinese media, the anti-Japan offensive continued as well. A commentary in the People's Daily newspaper warned on Monday that Japan's economy could suffer for up to 20 years if Beijing chose to impose sanctions over an escalating territorial row.  "Would Japan rather lose another 10 years and even be ready to fall back 20 years?" it asked.

The crisis has gone beyond nation-to-nation relations. Japan's electronics giant Panasonic announced it would suspend activities in three of its mainland plants, after they suffered damages from anti-Japanese protests two days ago. They should however reopen tomorrow, a spokesperson, said if the authorities guarantee security for the facilities and their workers.

Canon also announced it had suspended its operations but did not say when they would resume.

The issue could serious affect the China-Japan trade relation. Two-way trade totalled US2.9 billion last year, making Japan China's fourth-largest trade partner, according to Chinese official data.

Meanwhile, the United States is trying to cool things down. US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, a former CIA director, has arrived in Tokyo for talks with Japanese leaders. "A misjudgement on one side or the other could result in violence" and "conflict," said Mr Panetta, who is due to travel to Beijing this week where he will pass on a similar warning for Chinese authorities.

Washington has on several occasions said it would not get involved in territorial disputes in this and other areas; however, it has said that the world's second and third largest economies should have more normal relations and avoid world crises.

 

Printable version
CLOSE X
See also
White House to stop Beijing's "imperialist" policy in the South China Sea
24/01/2017 15:55
Pope talks about the Middle East, the Holy Land and the food crisis with Bush
13/06/2008
New maritime incident between China and the United States
23/03/2017 13:11
South China Sea, risk of collision between Chinese and US planes
19/05/2016 09:12
Hanoi deploys defensive system on disputed islands in South China Sea
10/08/2016 17:19