The China v Japan dispute over the uninhabited Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, called the Senkaku Islands in Japan, who’ve administered them since 1972 when the USA turned the islands over to Japan to prevent returning them to Mao’s murderous communist China, turned downright ugly last week, according to the Associated Press, with both China and Japan scrambling fighters over the disputed airspace. According to Chinese media, China for the first time during the week, sent up a pair of their latest J-10s to start tailing Japan’s American made F-15s.
In an article Sunday in Japan’s Asahi Shinbum, Japan asserted a right to start “firing warning shots and take other measures” against offending aircraft, i.e. the Chinese J-10s, asserting that there has been a “rapid intensification of Chinese air force activity around the islands.” According to The Asahi Shinbum:
“Every country has procedures for how to deal with a violation of its territory that continues after multiple cautionary measures,” Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said on Jan. 16 when asked if tracer shots would be fired against intruding aircraft that refuse to change course. “We have response measures ready that are consistent with global standards.”
Onodera said the use of warning shots has long been provided for under Japan’s defense policies and is widely accepted under international rules of engagement.
China in reply stated that their aircraft were in Chinese airspace and did not violate Japanese airspace, accusing Japan of escalating tension in the area.
As is often the case, Chinese media quoted military academics with a much more fiery response.
“Japan’s desire to fire tracer warning shots as a way of frightening the Chinese is nothing but a joke that shows the stupidity, cruelty and failure to understand their own limitations,” Maj. Gen. Peng Guangqian of the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences was quoted as saying by the China News Service and other state media.
“Firing tracer bullets is a type of provocation; it’s firing the first shot,” he said. “Were Japan to dare to fire tracers, which is to say fire the first shot, then China wouldn’t stint on responding and not allow them to fire the second shot.”
On Friday, the USA again issued a blank cheque to Japan when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on stated that the Diaoyu Islands were under the administrative authority of Japan, and therefore the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty applies to them. In a pointed article yesterday in China Daily, China responded:
It was exceedingly wrong for Clinton, a senior U.S. governmental official in charge of American foreign affairs, to make such comments when meeting in Washington with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.
Firstly, Clinton’s comments were ignorant of essential historical facts and international law, and indiscriminate of rights and wrongs. Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islets have been part of China’s inherent territories since ancient times.
China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands whether on the aspects of history, geography and legal principle.
However, the U.S. arbitrarily placed the Diaoyu Islands under its administration in the 1950s and transferred the so-called “administrative authority” to Japan in the 1970s.
—- Not long before, Washington had still seemed to remain cautious when dealing with the issue of the Diaoyu Islands. The Wall Street Journal on Thursday reported that Kurt Campbell, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, recently issued a subtle but clear message to Japan, suggesting that Tokyo tone down its rhetoric and actions in its dispute with Beijing.
In addition, The Journal said Campbell “maintained a neutral tone in describing the situation.”
However, Clinton’s recent remarks have indicated clearly that the U.S. stance on the issue was contradictory.
Clinton’s comments would be seen as backing Japan’s rightwingers, making it more complicated to solve the issue.
Quite what all this means for markets, especially rare earths and other critical materials supplied by China to the rest of the world, is hard to say, but the chances of a clash between China and Japan have risen dramatically in the past week. From London it looks like the USA is now encouraging a harder line by Japan, which will cause consternation in Beijing to say the least. Each side is backed into a corner with no easy way out. China says it is about to survey the islands as part of its claim at the UN for an enlarged continental shelf. Japan’s new government says it plans to build on the largest of the islands. America seems to be signalling to Japan to go right ahead. If Japan actually fires warning tracers at Chinese planes, China has just warned it won’t be tracers getting fired back. With a new war just starting in North Africa, the European part of NATO will be hard pressed to offer any assistance in the East Asia Sea.
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