12/13/2012, 00.00
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Tokyo sends warplanes to Senkaku / Diaoyu islands

For the first time the tug of war between Tokyo and Beijing involves airspace. The mobilization comes on the 75th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre. The strategic importance of the islands for control of the Pacific Ocean.

Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Japan has sent warplanes, after a Chinese aircraft entered the airspace of the Senkaku / Diaoyu, a group of islands claimed by Tokyo and Beijing.

The Japanese government announced that a group of F-15 jets were sent to the area shortly after 11 this morning (local time).

For several months, Tokyo and Beijing have been contending the sovereignty of this group of islands in the East China Sea, sending ships, coastguards and fishing vessels to the area. But this is the first time that the tug of war has included the airspace.

In China, there have been fierce patriotic demonstrations with assaults on Japanese diplomatic and commercial centers, and a boycott of products made in Japan.

The uninhabited islets were occupied by Japan in 1895 because they were considered terra nullius, nobody's territory. And, in fact, in the past China has never complained. Since 1970's the possibility of endless oil and gas reserves in the subsoil has been touted. Immediately following this discovery, Beijing began a diplomatic struggle for the return of the Senkaku (Diaoyu or) to China.

The group of islands seems to have a strategic value for the control of the Pacific Ocean and its waters are rich in fish. In 2008, as a gesture of detente, the two governments signed an agreement for joint research and the exploitation of the archipelago, which, however, has never been acted on.

Today's showdown falls on the day of the 75th anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre, when Japanese forces occupying a part of China entered the then capital and killed hundreds of thousands.

Japan continues to ask for a legal and diplomatic solution to the dispute, Beijing prefers shows of strength and patriotic demonstrations to claim sovereignty.


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