China and Japan Rivalry on the Disputed Island

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CHINA AND JAPAN RIVALRY ON THE DISPUTED ISLAND

On September 7th, 2010 a Chinese fishing craft collided with two Japanese coastguard patrol boats near the oil-rich, uninhabited islands in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu, meaning ‘fishing platform’, in China. Following the collision, coastguards boarded the trawler and arrested its crew and Captain Zhan Qixiong who, as subsequent video footage revealed, had rammed his boat into the coastguard vessels. Following the incident, anti-Japanese protests were held in Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Shenyang. Chinese tour groups visiting Japan were recalled, four expatriate employees of Fujita, the Japanese car component manufacturers, were arrested in the northern Chinese province of Hebei and, more critically, a decision was made to suspend the export of rare earths to Japan. Chinese premier Wen Jiabao turned down requests to meet with his Japanese counterpart, Naoto Kan, and on November 1st Dmitri Medvedev, the Russian president, in a provocative move, visited the disputed southern Kuril Islands, which the Soviet Union annexed from Japan in 1945.

These events marked a low point in foreign relations for Japan, already mired in controversy over its plan to relocate the Futenma military base used for decades by US forces in Okinawa. Japan seemed to be under siege from all sides, while a rising China appeared increasingly powerful and assertive, capable of undermining Japan’s vital interests and infringing her territorial sovereignty.

Since 1970 the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan and Japan have all put forward bold sovereignty claims over the islands, which are equidistant from Taiwan and the southwestern tip of the Ryukyus. According to Chinese sources the first mention of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands is in a 15th-century document now held at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Early sources tended to mention only the islands’ location on the...
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