The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute between China and Japan is heating up. The biggest anti-Japan protests in years erupted in China this weekend in response to 150 Japanese activists who attended a commemoration for Japan’s war dead there, reports the Financial Times:
Chinese protestors gathered in dozens of cities, in some cases vandalising Japanese-made cars and retail outlets. About 1,000 people marched in the southern city of Shenzhen, overturning a Japanese-made police vehicle and attacking a Japanese restaurant, according to Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency.
And we can expect more to come. September 18 is the the 81st anniversary of the Mukden incident, Japan’s pretext for invading northern China in 1931. The same Chinese activists from Hong Kong who first landed on the island plan to organize protests at Japanese embassies across the world on this anniversary, according to the New York Times.
These are scary moments in the Game of Thrones. America’s interest is to push toward orderly and fair settlement of all claims. One possible measure would be to encourage negotiations on sharing resources, so that the nations of the region can benefit from the under-sea resources even before final decisions about sovereignty are made.
But the chances of economic diplomacy prevailing seem to be fading somewhat, as Japan is preparing to replace its current ambassador to China, Uichiro Niwa, with a career government bureaucrat likely to toe a more hawkish line on the Senkakus. The Daily Yomiuri has the details:
In June this year, Niwa caused a furor when he said in an interview with the Financial Times that the Tokyo metropolitan government’s plan to purchase some of the Senkaku Islands would “result in an extremely grave crisis in relations between Japan and China.”
Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara demanded Niwa be dismissed as ambassador to China, saying he failed to pay due attention to the fact that the Senkaku Islands are an integral part of Japanese territory.
Calls for Niwa’s dismissal also mounted from both the ruling and opposition parties, saying he was unqualified to represent national interests.
We should have no illusions about the strength and bitterness of the passions these issues evoke. Countries have gone to war for far less.