With every passing day, dispute between two global superpowers – China and Japan – in the East China Sea, over a group of unpopulated islands (Senkaku Islands in Japan, the Diaoyu in China, and Tiaoyutai Islands in Taiwan), seems to be heading in the wrong direction. As such, continued souring of diplomatic relations between the world’s second and third-largest economies is only becoming more a matter for public debate.
Experts claim that the bond between China and Japan has never appeared more delicate in the past couple of years. Some even compare the current China and Japan equation to that between Germany and Britain during the pre-World War I days. In a global security conference in Munich (Germany) on February 2, 2014, Kissinger pointed out, “Asia is more in a position of 19th Century Europe, where military conflict is not ruled out. Between Japan and China, the issue for the rest of us is that neither side be tempted to rely on force to settle the issue.” But whether these two superpowers can afford costs of war during a time when the whole world is still learning to walk after being crippled by a financial crisis, is the moot point.
Mass protests in the People’s Republic of China broke out in September 2012 when the Japanese government purchased three islands (belonging to the disputed cluster) from a private owner. The difference of opinion arose as Tokyo currently controls the islands, but Beijing has been demanding ownership of the territory since 1972, quoting “Documentary evidence prior to the First Sino-Japanese War”. In late November last year, China announced that it was introducing air traffic restrictions in the region, called the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), whereby all aircraft entering the zone would need to take necessary permission from Chinese authorities. This was a natural challenge thrown by China – and Japan wasn’t one to be amused with such an ‘assumed authority’!
Observers claim that China is trying its best to use all powers to gain a strong foothold in that region, primarily because it is a destination popular for rich natural resources – especially oil and gas.
China and Japan got expressive about their emotions at WEF in Davos a few weeks back.