Tension between Japan and China surrounding the Senkaku Islands presents a serious challenge to the stability of East Asia. The situation has become particularly dangerous as both sides are adopting increasingly stubborn postures.
Prior to 2010, China maintained a relatively low-key posture toward the islands, but now it is taking a much more aggressive approach. Whereas China previously took the stance that Japan should merely acknowledge that there is a territorial dispute over what it calls the Diaoyu Islands, it now seems to be going a step further by sending ships and planes in ever greater numbers into the vicinity of the islands in what appears to be a bid to test Japan's resolve and establish the perception in the international community that China and Japan exercise joint control over the territory, rather than the status quo view that Japan exercises effective control. Of particular concern was a recent incident in which a Chinese naval frigate locked its fire-control radar onto a Japanese ship putting the two countries precariously close to exchanging fire for the first time in the postwar era.
Looking at Japan, the administration of the new prime minister Shinzo Abe is often seen as a clear example of Japan's increasing rightward ideological shift. Moreover, after the incident in late 2010 in which a Chinese fishing boat rammed a Japanese Coast Guard ship, Japan was perceived as weak for bowing to Chinese demands to release the fishing boat captain. China used its economic power to pressure Japan, suspending rare earth exports and arresting four China-based Japanese employees of Fujita corporation. If Japan were to bend to Chinese pressure again, it would set a highly negative precedent and embolden China to continue to use such coercive methods of diplomacy.
Given the current flare up in tensions, and the unlikelihood that either side will back down, the potential for even a small mistake to lead to violent conflict is far too high. Resolving the issue in the short term may be unrealistic, but there is an urgent need to calm tensions and manage the issue carefully to prevent it from negatively affecting the Japan-China bilateral relationship and regional stability. An excessively narrow framing of the Japan-China relationship focused on the Senkakus is counterproductive. It should be remembered that the impact of these squabbles between neighbours - the second and third largest economies in the world - has regional and global ramifications as disruptions ripple along production chains.
In order to cool public sentiments, reaffirm the importance of the bilateral relationship, and increase mutual trust, Japan and China should increase their cooperative efforts toward breakthroughs on the China-Japan-ROK and the free trade negotiations. Efforts should also be increased for the establishment of an official China Japan-US trilateral forum with a 2+2+2 framework - including both foreign and defence ministers from each of the three countries - that includes discussions on increased confidence building measures, transparency, and joint operations for search and rescue and natural disasters.
The estimated number of people who visited Japan in May jumped 31.2 pct from a year before to 875,400, topping 800,000 for the first time in the month, the Japan National Tourism Organization said Wednesday. (Jiji Press )
The number of people who committed suicide in Japan in 2012 was 27,858, dropping below 30,000 for the first time in 15 years, the Cabinet Office said in a white paper on Tuesday. The figure was 2,800 fewer than in 2011. (Japan Today )
A collection of materials related to a 17th century mission sent by a Japanese feudal lord to Europe and the world's oldest autographic diary left 10 centuries ago by a Japanese regent have been selected for the UNESCO Memory of the World registry, the Japanese education ministry said Wednesday. (Global Post )
Almost 1,500 people were transported to hospitals by ambulance due to heatstroke last week, up sharply from 942 in the preceding week, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said Tuesday. (Japan Times )
Among about 200,000 traffic signals nationwide, 16 percent are being used beyond the end of the expected lifetime of their electrical systems and some have even toppled over due to age, according to the National Police Agency. (Yomiuri )
In May, Akira Ikoma, the editor of a guide to men's entertainment called Ore no Tabi (My Journey), said that "Abenomics" had caused a spike in prices at high-end soapland bathhouses in Tokyo. However, the same editor tells Shukan Post (June 28) that the initiative is not impacting the low-end market in the same way. (Tokyo Reporter )