Terse relations between China and Japan are by no means a recent development, however recent territorial disputes have increased the strain between the two APEC countries. Present-day controversies center on a small island chain positioned in the East China Sea. Japan currently controls the islands, known as the Diaoyu Islands in China and the Senkaku Islands in Japan, which are located near vital shipping lanes and offer rich fishing grounds.
To spite Japan and indicate their displeasure towards the Japanese controlling the islands, China announced the creation of a new “air defense identification zone” in November of 2013. The zone would require any aircrafts flying through to comply with the regulations established by Beijing. Japan, calling China’s air defense identification zone a “unilateral decision,” chose to ignore it. Later in the same month Japan accused China of flying military planes “dangerously close” to the islands, a move China merely shrugged off.
Last month the two countries agreed to resume discussions in an effort to come to a solution and avoid unintentional conflict. Talks between Japan and China resume as the APEC conference in Beijing approaches. Hopes are high that a solution could be close at hand and speculations mount that President Xi Jinping of China and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe may meet in a separate meeting during the November conference. Don’t hold your breath however, distrust and disdain predominate in Japan-China relations.
7 Responses to Friends at Last? China and Japan Resume Talks with APEC Approaching
China is making similar territorial claims to islands off the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia. The Senkaku islands would actually be more appropriately disputed by Taiwan than the PRC. But in all cases the islands are uninhabited, though (as with the Senkakus) there’s little to no evidence that Chinese in the pre-nation-state era ever did more than note the existence of the islands in gazettes. In the late 19th century a Japanese gained title to the Senkakus and for many decades there was a fishing village there.
Anyway, the bottom line is that I’m skeptical China is serious about working out a deal, as opposed to toning down the rhetoric. Note that following WWII the Soviet Union seized 4 islands just off the coast of Hokkaido (Japan’s northernmost island) and Russia still holds them. The last I heard there was an informal arrangement to allow locals on both sides to travel to the islands, or at least the two closest to Japan.
Just as China and Japan have attempted to calm their territorial dispute recently, the same goes for Vietnam. Earlier this week one of China’s top diplomats visited Vietnam in an attempt to find a solution to the South China Sea which Vietnam claims is theirs, yet China has drilling rigs there. I am curious if China actually seeks to make a deal regarding the sea with Vietnam or as Professor Smitka said, “toning down the rhetoric”.
Thanks. Toning down the rhetoric is however useful, if accompanied by actions — reining in errant fisherman [a recent note on a chinese vessel trying to collect red coral in Japanese territorial waters, since Philippines reefs have already been dynamited to pieces…], stopping oil exploration, dropping the topic from domestic Chinese news media, and in general ending harrassment over the issue.
China appears to be making efforts to improve their image in Asia as the APEC conference approaches. I am curious to see if these steps are merely in order to improve their negotiating position at APEC or if they actually desire to ease tensions in Asia. It is hard to if the impacts of actions like this will be lasting. Hopefully this is a genuine effort to decrease tensions between Japan and China.
Political niceties help pave the way for good PR and trade deals. True territorial desires, military presence, and dialogue are often furthered behind closed doors and then comes out in public dialogue after the fact. The political leadership of China knows that these territories can provide precious resources and geopolitical staging grounds for trade ports and military bases
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