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Game of Thrones
China Backs Down but Not Out

Despite their recent agreement to disagree on the status of the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, and plans to prevent future confrontations at sea, China and Japan’s squabble over the territory has gotten hot yet again. The Global Times, run by the China’s state-owned People’s Daily, reports that Beijing is outraged by a Japanese minister’s recent confirmation of Tokyo’s official position: that there is no dispute at all. The Global Times:

“We are seriously concerned [about Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida’s statement] and strongly dissatisfied with it,” said the spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo on Wednesday. The spokesperson said that the Diaoyu Islands is China’s territory and the four-point agreement reached between China and Japan on November 7 is clear.

Asked if the Japanese government’s position remains unchanged that a territorial row does not exist over the Diaoyu Islands, Kishida said at a press conference on Tuesday, “Certainly.” […]

China’s determination to defend its sovereignty over its own territory will not be changed and China will make efforts to resolve the Diaoyu Islands dispute through talks and negotiations, said the spokesperson.

This hot-tempered response is a reminder of Walter Russell Mead’s cautionary read on China: though it may have dispensed somewhat with its former confrontational approach to geopolitics, it’s hardly giving up its revisionist agenda or resigning itself to the U.S.-led global status quo. Instead, Beijing will be going about its usual business more indirectly, biding its time until the net that tightened around it (held by Japan on one side and the U.S. on the other) goes slack.

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