China and Japan: Who will lose patience first?

China is boosting its efforts aimed at returning the jurisdiction over the disputed Diaoyu Islands (Senkaku). In late October, the Chinese ships began regular patrols of the waters, despite the protests of Tokyo. Some analysts argue that the parties have exhausted all diplomatic means. Beijing is clearly hinting at the possibility of using force.

On Tuesday, the leading news agencies once again reported on the appearance of four service marine patrol ships in the Senkaku archipelago. In addition, the official Beijing made several statements about the ownership of the islands that are considered an integral part of the country. However, Tokyo does not intend to compromise on this issue, as Japan has recently bought three islands from private owners.

The current conflict between Japan and China broke out in September. After the Japanese government announced the nationalization of the Senkaku Islands, Chinese Ambassador in Tokyo Cheng Yonghua sent a protest note. This was followed by the emergence of Chinese marine patrol ships by the Senkaku Islands. Analysts note that Japan is largely responsible for the outbreak of the conflict because it ignored China's position on the Diaoyu islands. Now diplomatic measures are significantly limited.

The territorial dispute has a long history. Chinese historical sources speak of the early development of this area during the time of the Ming Dynasty. Since the 15th century, the Diaoyu Islands were already under the control of the Chinese Government. One of the first mentions of the location of the archipelago in the East China Sea was made at that time. the Diaoyu Islands are described in a Chinese book published under the Emperor Yongle (1403-1424). Later, the area was included in the South-Eastern Military District as a defensive line by Governor-General Hu Tszunsyan. The Japanese conquered the Senkaku Islands in 1895. China had to agree to sign a humiliating agreement under which it lost the entire Taiwan.

After World War II, the Senkaku Islands were occupied by the United States. This fact has had a great influence on the development of the situation around the status of the disputed archipelago. In 1971 the "Agreement on the return of Okinawa" was signed, under which the island was given to Japan. PRC authorities refused to recognize the legality of the decision. It is noteworthy that international agreements reached after the end of World War II provided Beijing with additional arguments in the fight for the disputed islands. The Potsdam Declaration, recognized by Japan after the surrender, suggests the return of all occupied territories, including the Diaoyu Islands, to China.

The current aggravation of the territorial dispute has not yet led to an open military confrontation between China and Japan, although China clearly hints at the possibility of using force in cases of a violation of the territorial integrity of the country. The largest incident took place in the East China Sea on September 25th, when Japan and Taiwan exchanged volleys of water cannon mounted on patrol boats.

Meanwhile, economists continue to count the losses caused by the deterioration of the relations between Tokyo and Beijing. The Japanese automotive industry was hit by the consequences of the crisis particularly hard. Mitsubishi Motors Corporation announced that exports to China fell by 50 percent. Other automakers also reported a significant reduction in sales in China in the beginning of October. Toyota - by 49 percent, Honda - 41 percent, Nissan and Mazda - 35 percent, Suzuki - 43 percent.

While calls for a boycott of the Japanese goods by the entire China have somewhat subsided, the situation remains tense. Meanwhile, the official Beijing has  Tokyo on the inadmissibility of any attack on the country's sovereignty. At the press conference, Deputy Foreign Minister Zhang Chzhidzyun said that if someone wanted to challenge China on the issue of sovereignty, force may be used against them, if necessary.

However, the Chinese government is unlikely to conduct an amphibious operation on the Senkaku islands because Japan has security guarantees from the United States. At this time, no one needs a war in the region over a few tiny useless islands. Washington has officially stated that it would not interfere in the conflict.

On October 20th, aircraft carrier George Washington was sent to the South China Sea. Obviously, there were no official statements about the goals and objectives of the maritime expedition. However, it could have been a way for the U.S. to remind China that the U.S. military is monitoring the situation around the Senkaku Islands.

In any event, a low-intensity conflict over the archipelago can drag out for a long time, since a military or diplomatic solution of the territorial dispute is nowhere in sight.

Yuri Sosinsky-Semikhat


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov