Japanese Military Drill, Chinese Coast Guard Patrol Both Aim At Disputed Islands


It seems an ever-rising level of tension has become the norm in the East China Sea. From China’s new ADIZ to Shinzo Abe’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine; from angry op-eds written by Chinese and Japanese Ambassadors to Japan and China trading barbs over new fishing rules in the South China Sea, hardly a week goes by without some new incident pushing China and Japan farther apart (and closer towards conflict). This week was no exception.

Three Chinese Coast Guard vessels patrolled near the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands on Sunday morning, entering waters claimed by Japan. In response, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters, “We can never overlook such repeated entries. In addition to diplomatic efforts, we will cooperate with Coast Guard and securely defend our territory and territorial waters around the Senkaku.” The Chinese Foreign Ministry lambasted Onodera’s comments, with spokesperson Hua Chunying warning Japan “not to underestimate China’s firm resolve and willpower in defending the national territorial sovereignty.”

This action and response is hardly new — Chinese Coast Guard vessels enter the disputed region rather routinely, apparently part of China’s strategy to slowly chip away at Japanese de facto administrative control of the islands. Chinese state media briefly noted similar patrols on December 8 and December 22, for example. However, this is first such incident since Abe’s hotly debated visit to Yasukuni Shrine, after which China-Japan ties took a particularly frosty turn.  Now, in Chinese rhetoric the territorial debate is even more closely linked with Japan’s actions during World War II.  In the Foreign Ministry press conference, Hua called Japan’s “erroneous position” on the territorial dispute an attempt “to deny the victory of the world anti-Fascist war.”

Meanwhile, even during the Chinese Coast Guard patrol of the contested region, Japan was holding its annual military drill. The drill, called “Island Defense,” had Japan’s elite airborne brigade practicing to retake an island — a not-so-subtle reference to the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute. Such a drill, while a chilling reminder that the territorial dispute could one day escalate to armed conflict, was also nothing new. Both China and Japan had held military drills (and complained about the other parties’ drills) in the recent past. The Chinese Foreign Ministry had no specific comment on Sunday’s military exercise, though Monday’s press conference (as referenced above) did not shy away from lambasting Japan.

Ironically, this week marked a return to normalcy, in a sense. Having Chinese vessels enter the disputed region and Japanese troops conduct a pointed military drill is pretty much par for the course for China-Japan relations and for the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute. We could see a return to the status quo that existed before high profile moves like China’s ADIZ announcement and Abe’s Yasukuni visit destabilized the situation even further.

On the other hand, the fact that these actions are fairly normal also speaks to how badly the situation has deteriorated in recent years. With officials from both countries publicly swearing to defend their territory, it’s hard to see how China and Japan can extricate themselves from the problem.  That means the “new normal” of dueling coast guard patrols, military drills, and inflammatory press conferences is going to continue long into 2014.

Indranil Sarkar
January 16, 2014 at 16:32

Somehow I am getting very nostalgic about the US – Soviet cold war days. The daggers were seldom drawn directly at each other, except during the Cuban crisis. The two states always found vassals to do their sabre rattling. So we had Vietnam and Afghanistan. Israel and the Arab world. While the conflicts raged around the world, the Russians and the Americans always found ways and means to keep the fires alive. And the spin offs of the cold war was invention and production of better and better weapons. Like for instance shooting down of U2 took the battle to space with high imagery satellites. Both sides never gave up.

I wonder what spin offs will come out of the perceived threats to each other by China and Japan. After all the best Japanese names in electronics have their production bases in China. Common let’s see what new weapons the second and the third largest economies of the world will be able to throw at each other. The conflict here is turning more comic or anything else but serious.

Or is there any deeper and darker angle to this, than what meets the eye? Are there domestic compulsions that are forcing this futile sabre rattling? Is it that the Chinese polity wants to make a statement to its military establishment and hence providing a diversion to the looming credit crisis? Are the Japanese trying to re take their space in the sun, by asserting themselves in the Asia Pacific region, which they had more or less abdicated in the last 60 years? Questions, questions and more questions need to be answered and till then we can sit back and enjoy the dance dramas in the area.

Wei Sen
January 15, 2014 at 13:11

Actually China is still living in the past. The basic of their claim is that Diaoyu belong to them in history of ming dynasty (very sentimental feeling). In the past, by all mean, China not even capable to bring peace to their homeland. Now they’re strong, start to showing their tooth. But Land is free, its possessed is through civiliaztion and sovereignity build on it (Much like America, Australia).
If by that logic of history, then by all means many country belong to Spain, portugal, etc. For godsake man!

They go back to conqueror mentality without understand their own emotion..They cause ruckus in Asia, claiming many island belong to China , such as Philliphine, Myanmar small island belong to China. If u keep judge based on history, how u can move in the future? This small island since ww2 already established successfully by others.

January 15, 2014 at 18:14

I will agree with you ..that I commented last week..if chinese relayed in history in ming dynasty south china sea name are the given name by spanish and portugese expedition and make the maping of the whole world.on that time no one have the territorial claim every where.in that place there is no 9 dash that chinese claim.they are doing barter trade in that penisula during that time of limahong with the gallon of spaniard and portuguese.

January 16, 2014 at 03:51

It is time to get back to stolen islands from Japan. From the jurisprudence perspective, Japan got hold of Diaoyu Dao in 1895 through a war of aggression. The Qing court was defeated in the war and was forced to sign the unequal Treaty of Shimonoseki and cede to Japan “the isand of Formosa (Taiwan), together with all islands appertaining or belonging to the said island of Formosa”. Diaoyu Dao was ceded to Japan as one of those islands. When the Chinese government officially declared war against Japan during the World War II, it also declared the abrogation of all treaties between China and Japan, including the Treaty of Shimonoseki, annulling the jurisprudence grounds for Japan to claim Diaoyu Dao. After the victory of the Anti-Fascist War, such important documents as the Cairo Declaration, the Potsdam Proclamation, and the Japanese Instrument of Surrender all provided that Diaoyu Dao, as an appertaining island to Formosa (Taiwan), shall be restored to China. In 1951, Japan, the US and a number of other countries signed the Treaty of San Francisco, which placed the Nansei Islands south of the 29th parallel of North Latitude under the United Nations trusteeship, but it did not include Diaoyu Dao. In 1971, Japan and the US signed the Okinawa Reversion Agreement, which in the absence of China provided that any and all powers of administration over the Ryukyu Islands and Diaoyu Dao would be “returned” to Japan. In the aftermath, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a solemn statement. In response to the strong opposition from China, the US publicly clarified its position on the sovereignty over Diaoyu Dao, stressing that the US took a neutral position with regard to the competing Japanese and Chinese claims to the islands.

As China and Japan were normalizing relations and concluding the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship in the 1970s, the then leaders of the two countries, acting in the larger interest of China-Japan relations, reached important understanding and consensus on “leaving the issue of Diaoyu Dao to be resolved later.” But in recent years, Japan has repeatedly taken unilateral measures concerning Diaoyu Dao and conducted in particular the so-called “nationalization” of Diaoyu Dao. This severely infringed upon China’s sovereignty and ran counter to the understanding and consensus reached between the older generation of leaders of the two countries. It has not only seriously damaged China-Japan relations, but also rejected and challenged the outcome of the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War.

January 17, 2014 at 09:43

So why do all of the China PRC government’s maps from 1949 until June 1971 show the Senkakus as belonging to Japan?

January 15, 2014 at 10:07

The real problem is that China is claiming just every island this area and south to Indonesia. Is China is not willing to give in. And Japan is the only country who has the will and the means to stand up to the Chinese. So what’s wrong with that? Imagine the Vietnamese, Filipinos, Taiwanese, and others in the area asking the Chinese for permission to fish in waters just a few miles off their respective shores. Go Japan!

January 15, 2014 at 09:57

Ha ha.

You make funny joke.

Japan was granted the islands at the end of WW2 as their territory. China didn’t have a problem with this until the late 70′s when they needed something to take the minds of their starving peasants off domestic issues.

I cannot help but wonder whether this issue will resolve itself easily enough though. I can see china imploding as a country within the next 5 years.

It will be most enjoyable to watch.

January 15, 2014 at 18:19

China will implode ?
You are sick, and you are dreaming that China will be weakened by all these disputes. In fact the opposite may happen, that China will become even stronger and more able to deal with its disputes with its neighbors in a more friendly manner, with the ultimate aim of a win win outcome. This is what China want in the long term, to resolve all the disputes without the use of force.

January 25, 2014 at 13:25

take into account the problems facing the chinese communists? Like an illegitimate government that will collapse soon, a brutal dictatorship that oppresses its own people by denying them even the right to vote, ghost cities, doctored economic figures, massive debts unpaid by local governments, manipulated economy dominated by state owned companies, manipulated currency, stolen products through stolen technology and swindling of foreign investors, stolen land, poisoned environment, aged and unbalanced population, social problems and the shameless dishonesty and treachery displayed by the chinese communists?
chinese communists have consistently demonstrated their arrogance, oppressiveness, ruthless disregard of the Truth, Justice, Fair Play, International Law and above all, the error of their atheism.
Can any country in the world rise to world dominance without the Blessings of Almighty God? Can any country in the world be allowed by DivineJustice to dominate the world by cheating and stealing with no sense of honor or shame or integrity or sense of fair play? What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose its soul? The bottomline Truth is that man does not live by bread alone but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God.

But pride cometh before destruction. If they do not repent and humble themselves, the chinese communists will soon reap the whirlwind from the lawlessness and arrogance that they have sown around the world.

communist red china while currently following the same pattern of aggression unleashed by Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan that started World War II, should take note of what happened in the end . Godless aggressors will never win and will be severely punished by Divine Justice.

What the chinese communists are missing is that they think that
they can get away with their dishonest, immoral, unfair and unjust methods of advancing their agenda of global domination.

The godless ideology of the chinese communists blinds them to the Truth that there is a Higher Power that holds the destinies of all the nations of the world in the Palm of His Hands and will hold corrupt and evil regimes like the communists accountable.

Unless communist china humbles itself and repent of its arrogant
ways, give up its goal of global domination (because it will never succeed), respect the Truth and abide by Justice, then communist china will soon collapse under the weight of its own evil, worst than the punishment of the agressors in World War II.

The unprovoked aggression of the chinese communists in arbitrarily claiming territories of sovereign nations in utter disregard of not only international law, but also the universal law of justice, truth and fair play, is plain lawlessness. This year, the penalty for this communist chinese arrogance and hubris has reached the tipping point that calls for redress and vindication.

communist china has the entire year last year to change course, humble itself and repent of its offense of lawlessness. communist china must :
1) Stop sending its ships and airplanes to harass Japan.
2) Give up its bogus claim on the Senkaku islands and respect Japanese sovereignity on these islands
3) Return all territories it stole from Vietnam, the Philippines, East Turkestan, Tibet and India and respect the sovereignity of these nations on these territories.
4) Stop stealing the property of other nations (intellectual, economic, natural resources, etc.) and return and pay back what was stolen.
5) Return the sovereignity stolen from the chinese people.
6) Stop enslaving the chinese people.
7) Stop the mass murder of its people through abortion.
8) Stop lying to the world.
9) Stop threatening the world.
10) Give up its goal of enslaving the world.

Since communist china persists in its offenses of lawlessness, beginning this year 2014, communist china will itself be destroyed by lawlessness, confusion and chaos.

January 15, 2014 at 08:14

The real problem is Japan’s inflexible position regarding the dispute. This is made worse by US siding with Japan. Japan is emboldened to go all the way confronting with China, and refuse to negotiate, refuse to admit that there is even a dispute. The problem can only be “solved” with US changing its stand by say clearly to Japan that it should admit there is a dispute. This is clearly the very first step for the US to shoulder some responsibility for the post WW2 order, in which both the American and the Chinese share common obligation to ensure that Japan is committed to.

Soren Skye
January 15, 2014 at 09:06

The real problem is China. It bullies it’s own citizens and it bullies it’s neighbors. It’s dealings with Vietnam, the Philippines, as well as Tibet reveal a government not at all concerned with justice and fairness.

January 15, 2014 at 20:56

Soren, your assessment that China is bullying other nations is groundless. What China is asking is to solve the disputes, with all the concerned parties, by negotiation. China is not asking for war or the use of force despite the fact that Philippines started with force against Chinese fishermen. To ask for peaceful negotiation is not bullying, in any sense of the word.

Wei Sen
January 15, 2014 at 22:27

@justice first Since when they ask for peaceful negotiation.. By any International law, the Senkaku island belong to Japan. The basic of Chinese claim is discovery and historical point of view. But by sovereignity and any international law, Its no doubt belong to japan (try do some research on the law itself).
Beside that, just recently they just implement their terrirtorial rule without any concern of any parties (its dictatorship). Their official claim only started since 1971 and never approved, but they make rule like its already belonging to them. How you explain that? Just for info, its not with philliphine only, its Vietnam, Myanmar involved too. They cross everyone mate…For Japan, even though, by soverignity belong to them, they never stop anyone fishing thr

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