Over the past week much has been made over a picture of what appears to be hundreds of Chinese fishing boats which subsequent media plot goalseeking "assured" was headed toward the Senkaku islands.
Turns out this may have been merely wishful sensationalist thinking on behalf of the press. According to JIJI press, information that a large number of Chinese fishing boats are heading for the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture is false, the chief of a Japan Coast Guard office in the southern prefecture said Tuesday. "Hiroshi Majima, who heads the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters in Naha, told Okinawa Lieutenant Governor Yoshiyuki Uehara visiting the office that talk of the fishing season's start and the departures of Chinese boats from their ports may have been misunderstood. According to the coast guard headquarters, China's fishing season stops every year in June-September in the East China Sea, where the islands are located. This year, the ban was lifted on Sunday. According to Uehara, Majima told him said that there is no evidence that Chinese fishing boats are gathering near Okinawa. In their meeting, Uehara requested the coast guard ensure the safety of Okinawa fishermen who operate in waters around to the islands."
So while there may be no 21st century Armada event (yet), it still remains to be seen just how Japan will diffuse the Senkaku situation because last we checked China has not agreed to cede what it certainly believes is its sovereign territory. What is worse is that this is merely the first of many such "disputed" incidents. Depending on how Japan resolves the Senkaku issue, many others may and will come knocking. From Kyodo:
Japan at diplomatic standstill amid multiple territorial disputes
While recent headlines have fixated on a flare-up between Japan and China over competing claims to Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea, Tokyo also faces major diplomatic challenges in the form of territorial disputes with South Korea and Russia.
As anti-Japan protests erupted across China and Chinese vessels closed in on the Senkaku Islands, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's government appeared stunned by China's fierce reactions to Tokyo's purchase of a major part of the islands from a private Japanese owner.
The Sept. 11 purchase of the islands, known to Chinese as Diaoyu, was "aimed not to cause ripples," a Japanese government source said. "I don't understand why it turned out this way."
All that remains is for Japan to eventually yield to China and in the process invite Russia and Korea to demand more concessions, further impairing Japanese nationalist spirits. As it turns out, being caught between a (literal) rock and 3 hard cases may not have been the best of diplomatic positions for the deflating economy to find itself in. But everything in the name of temporary diversions from what is truly important.