Tokyo ( AsiaNews / Agencies) - Tensions
between China and Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea are once
again running high. This
morning the Chinese Navy sent four Coast Guard vessels into the waters of the
Senkaku / Diaoyu . It
is a response to statements made by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who
gave permission to his own troops to shoot down "drones or foreign
aircraft entering our airspace without permission ."
Soon after, on October 26, China issued one of the strongest statements in recent weeks: "if Japan fired on its unmanned aircraft it "would constitute a serious provocation, an act of war of sorts. We would have to take firm countermeasures, and all consequences would be the responsibility of the side that caused the provocation".
Tokyo bought three of the five islands from private owners in September 2011, a move that angered Beijing, which responded with a campaign to assert its political and military sovereignty over the area.
Taiwan is also involved in the dispute. Taipei has proposed to develop the area jointly without focusing on ownership.
The value of the archipelago is not clear. Some consider it strategically important given its location in one of the busiest shipping lanes. Others believe that in addition to rich fishing grounds, the seafloor around the islands hold vast gas reserves.
In 2008, in a gesture of détente, Beijing and Tokyo signed an agreement for joint development and research on the islands, which, however, was never implemented.
The tension in
the area is in direct contrast to the foreign policy of both China and Japan. In
fact in recent years both governments have pursued a policy of regional and
continental détente. Beijing
has signed a peace agreement with India on the Himalayan border to improve the
transit of persons and equipment between the two countries , while Tokyo is in
talks with South Korea to create - with American blessing - a kind of
"countervailing power" to China's advance in the east.
Analysts think that the controversy over the Senkaku / Diaoyu is being exploited by both governments to gain support from patriotic fronts within the two populations .