Yesterday, in a rather paradoxical development, the Japanese Cabinet formally announced that the government will purchase several disputed islands that China also claims — a move that Beijing said would bring "serious consequences." The issue at hand is that China and Taiwan also claim the islands, which are part of what Japan calls the Senkakus and China the Diaoyu group. It is paradoxical because the last thing Japan, and its statutory deflationary and demographic collapse needs right now is to "antagonize" the world's fastest growing economy, and its neighbor to the west with whom it had a rather violent give or take as recently as 1945. Japan spin was naive: Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura repeated that the islands are part of Japan's territory and should not cause any friction with other countries or regions. "We certainly do not wish the issue to affect our diplomatic relations with China and it is important to resolve any misunderstanding or miscommunication." Turns out quite a bit of friction was caused as a result, as well as a substantial amount of misunderstanding and miscommunication. As Globe and Mail reports, "China has dispatched two patrol ships to the East China Sea in a show of naval strength and antagonism toward Japan after Tokyo said it had purchased a group of disputed islands from their private owners. China’s aggressive response ratcheted up tensions in a long-standing conflict between the two countries over claims to the territory."
It is now Japan's turn to explain just why China has it all wrong when it says Japan "stole" these islands from China, or else send a few patrol ships of its own, as the most unexpected rivalry suddenly escalates to much needed distraction levels. After all recall that none other than PM Noda promised two days ago to achieve 1% inflation in 1 year. For a country which has been mired in deflation for over 30 years, there may be just one way to achieve this goal, and it may just involve China in one capacity or another.
Japan’s central government said it had purchased the islands for 2.05 billion yen ($26-million U.S.) from the Japanese family it recognizes as the owner. The acquisition was intended to calm China’s concerns after the nationalist governor of Tokyo had proposed buying the Senkaku Islands and developing them.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a statement, said the purchase “cannot alter the fact the Japanese side stole the islands from China.”
“If Japan insists on going its own way, it will bear all the serious consequences that follow,” the ministry added.
Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency and mouthpiece for the ruling Communist Party, said the dispatching of ships by the China Marine Surveillance Agency was part of a broader plan to safeguard China’s sovereignty over the islands.
The nationalist fervour whipped up by Xinhua and other state media over the contested territory comes as the Chinese Communist Party is preparing for a once-in a-decade leadership transition in November. The fact that Chinese President Hu Jintao’s expected successor, Xi Jinping, has cancelled a series of diplomatic meetings and has not been seen in public for a week, has not been reported in the media in China. Regardless, some have questioned whether the Chinese government is engaging in “wag the dog” tactics and diverting attention from what now seems a wobbly leadership transition.
And since the foreplay between Israel and Iran is now entering its third year and everyone is bored out of their wits waiting for the inevitable strike to occur, perhaps it is only fitting that the next armed conflict will come, literally, out of the far left-field. Next, cue Hillary Clinton claiming that it was Syria's fault all along.
A brief history on the Senkaku conflict:
For those who need a refresh on the various geopolitical tensions in the far east, and relative military strenght, we present it again below.