The weekend saw a marked escalation in tensions between Japan and China. As many as 230 fishing vessels made their way into contested waters in the East China Sea, near the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Among those were 14 Chinese government vessels, according to the Japanese. As of this morning, 12 of those vessels still remained.
Tensions have increased in the region since an international arbitration panel ruled against China in an unrelated maritime territorial dispute with the Philippines—a ruling that Japan called on China to respect. But a perhaps more proximate cause was last week’s appointment of a hardline nationalist to be Japan’s Defense Minister, and China’s subsequent resolve to test her.
China accused Japan’s new defense minister, Tomomi Inada, on Friday of recklessly misrepresenting history after she declined to say whether Japanese troops had massacred civilians in China during World War Two.
Inada echoed Suga’s comments and said on Monday Japan’s military would conduct air patrols to provide information to the coast guard.
While the U.S. media is obsessing over minute poll gyrations in the presidential elections, an unstable Asian Pacific Rim continues to shudder. The Obama Administration, for its part, seems to have decided to focus its waning months on making some kind of progress on the Syria portfolio, and has been relatively passive in public since the arbitration panel rulings. Whoever takes the reins as Commander in Chief come January will probably not have the luxury to continue Obama’s more laid-back approach to the region.