Update: Island dispute escalates, China sends ships to Senkaku

09/13/2012
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Senkaku Islands

UPDATE: All 6 Chinese surveillance ships that entered Japan’s territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea earlier Friday have now left the area.

China is fuming after the Japanese government purchased three of the disputed Sentaku Islands from a private Japanese owner. China said they are watching developments closely and reserve the right to take reciprocal measures.

TOKYO (majirox news) — Tensions between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands, known the Diayu Islands in China, located in the East China Sea escalated.

The Japanese media reported that China dispatched four maritime ships toward the islands after the Japanese government purchased three of the disputed islands on September 11 for approximately $26 million from a private Japanese owner. China says it is an attempt to “steal its property” and they are ready to “assert” the country’s sovereignty over the islands.

“I don’t believe it will grow into a military confrontation,” said Koichiro Yoshida, vice president of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly and ruling Democratic Party of Japan member. “But if it does and the Chinese vessels enter the territorial waters around the Islands, Japan should take aggressive measures. We must protect the rights of our citizens and our sovereignty over the islands.”

The dispute is spilling over into Japan’s economy. For example, Nissan Motor’s sales in August fell and many joint events as well as Chinese tours to Japan have been canceled.

“But I don’t expect it to have a massive negative impact on our economic relations,” Yoshida said. “Japan is a major investor and China is our largest trading partner. Although Chinese consumers might not buy Japanese brands because of this. I suspect there is too much at risk for both countries, but it will be more damaging for China.”

The islands are near rich fishing grounds and believed to contain undersea natural gas and oil fields.

According to Tokyo bussinessman Hiro Ito, “China’s argument does not have any legal merits. We only purchased islands that we had been leasing. I expect they will continue to challenge us.”

Anti-Japanese hostility runs deep in China. The issue has caused growing demonstrations in cities across China and some attacks on Japanese businesses. There is no doubt that the Senkaku dispute will linger and create ill-will and distrust on both sides, complicating any resolution.

Meanwhile the governments in both countries are trying to manage the situation, since there is a lot at stake for Asia’s two biggest economies.

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