China and Japan seem to enjoy their Battleship

The conflict of China and Japan over the disputed Senkaku Islands has entered a new stage. Taiwan has joined in and has sent fishing vessels into the Japanese waters to express protest. The ships were going to defiantly sail around the archipelago. The action ended in a water cannon battle between the Japanese Coast Guard and Taiwanese fishermen - fortunately, bloodless.

Asian neighboring countries continue to fight for the disputed Senkaku Islands. After the Japanese refused to give up on the issue of the nationalization of three uninhabited islands, Beijing advanced its patrol vessels into the area. Earlier the PRC authorities have stated that they considered the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu) an integral part of the Chinese territory.

The situation has escalated again at the beginning of this week, when Taiwan with the tacit approval of China sent fishing vessels into the Japanese territorial waters. The flotilla consisted of 40-fishing boats, patrol boats followed. The action was demonstrative and did not pursue aggressive goals. To protest the merger of the disputed territories, fishermen gathered on Tuesday to sail around the Diaoyu Islands. Then the Japanese coast guard warned that Taiwanese vessels were there illegally.

To stop the invasion of ships into the territorial waters, Japanese patrol ships began firing the water cannons. A sea battle ensued where the two sides were pouring water on each other. In the end, the Japanese managed to cool down the Taiwanese sailors who left the area. No one was hurt in the incident.

Several patrol ships of PRC that were brought to the area of the disputed islands in advance did not intervene in the situation, local media reported. On September 25, before the worsening of the territorial dispute with Japan, China also announced the deployment for military service of the first aircraft carrier "Liaoning". It is not ruled out that this was not a coincidence. As stated by the Ministry of Defense of the PRC, the aircraft carrier would play an important role in protecting the interests of the country and increase the combat capability of the Chinese navy. China bought the hull of the ship from Ukraine in 1998, and its subsequent modernization was conducted in the shipyards in Dalian, Liaoning Province, hence the name of the aircraft. "Liaoning" made its first appearance at sea in August of 2011, "International French radio" (RFI) reported.

The tensions between Tokyo and Beijing were obvious from the beginning of September, when the Japanese government announced the purchase of three Senkaku Islands that were private property, and their nationalization. The move was seen in China as a gross violation of the Chinese sovereignty. Then the Foreign Ministry said that it was considering the deal illegal and void. The United States have refrained from direct intervention in the conflict, but hinted at the inadmissibility of force on part of China, which would be considered as a threat to the U.S. national security.

The question of the nationality of the archipelago is an intractable problem, since the disputed territories have repeatedly changed hands. Since 1895, Japan has virtually owned the islands, and after World War II, they were temporarily occupied by the United States (in 1972 they were returned to Japan.)

Official Beijing says the Diaoyu has always been an integral part of the Chinese empire. "Diaoyu Islands are traditionally the Chinese territory, as evidenced by the historical, geographical and legal documents. China has an indisputable sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands," said the White Papers published on September 25, 2012. Head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi called the disputed Senkaku Islands "sacred territory of China since ancient times" at a meeting with his Japanese counterpart Koichiro Gemba.

The likelihood of the conflict over the disputed territories in the military phase is rather small. Neither party is interested in further aggravation of the situation that may generate economic losses. Japan and China are major trading partners.

The September aggravation has already led to negative consequences for the economies of both countries. Several plants located in the Chinese territory stopped co-production; the flow of tourists decreased; Japanese shops and restaurants were closed. The loss of the Japanese automakers amounted to $250 million, while sales of home appliances made in Japan fell by 20 percent, the newspaper People's Daily reported.

On Tuesday the parties resumed the negotiations on the settlement of the conflict. Deputy Foreign Minister of Japan Chikai Kawai and his Chinese counterpart exchanged opinions and agreed to continue consultations on the issue of the disputed territories. Most experts say that the negotiation process may be delayed as neither Tokyo nor Beijing are going to give in on the issue of ownership of the Senkaku islands.

Yuri Sosinsky-Semikhat


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov