Jun. 13 – The Diaoyu Islands, or Senkaku Islands in Japan, continue to act as a wedge between China and Japan. The territorial dispute, which dates back decades, has once again come into the spotlight after Japanese lawmakers recently proposed that a team of experts should travel there to study development possibilities and environmental issues.
The proposal was debated in parliament a day after Japanese officials unofficially visited the waters off the island chain on a fishing trip. In the past, China has resolutely forbidden visits to the islands, claiming them as part of their territorial sovereignty. While no decision has been made, several Japanese politicians expressed their support.
“We need to promote the development of the islands and the possibility of having people living there,” said Taro Kimura, a conservative lawmaker. “I support government approval for these missions.”
In reaction to this, China has urged Japan to stop causing trouble over the disputed island chain.
“The Diaoyu Islands and their adjacent islets have been inherent parts of the Chinese territory since ancient times, and China has indisputable sovereignty over them,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Weimin said at a press briefing. “Any unilateral action by Japan involving the Diaoyu Islands is illegal and invalid.”
Controversial Japanese nationalist governor Shintaro Ishihara has once again spoken out against China. He has expressed that China is acting like “a burglar in Japan’s house” and characterizes Chinese hegemony as “intolerable.” His plan to purchase the island chain from its current owners has been well-received by the Japanese public. Demonstrating great national pride, Japanese citizens have contributed over US$14 million to the public fund that was established by Ishihara last month.
While Ishihara is not a member of the Japanese Parliament, his support is growing among a contingent of Japanese lawmakers who are concerned about China’s territorial claims. In the aftermath of successful maritime negotiations that were held last month, this situation may once again see the deterioration of Sino-Japanese discussions on territorial disputes.