Tokyo (AsiaNews) - China's "coercive" behaviour over the islands at the centre of a bitter dispute with Japan could have serious consequences. "These acts are extremely regrettable and China should accept and stick to the international norms," said a new defence paper adopted by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe overnight. The islands in question are located in the East China Sea, and are known as Senkaku in Japanese, and Diaoyu in Chinese.
Tokyo bought three of the five Senkaku 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, where the islands are known as Tiaoyutai, 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 waters around the islands also hold vast gas reserves.
In 2008, as a gesture of détente, Beijing and Tokyo signed an agreement for the joint development and research of the islands, which, however, was never implemented.
Japan's decision to review the role of its military, limited to territorial defence since the end of World War Two, has added fuel to the controversy.
Still, for Japan's 450-page defence report, "China . . . has taken action described as coercive, which includes risky behaviour".
In fact, for Tokyo, "China's activities include its intrusion into Japan's territorial waters, its violation of Japan's territorial airspace and even dangerous actions that could cause a contingency. [. . .] These acts are extremely regrettable and China should accept and stick to the international norms".