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The China–Japan Pissing Contest Resumes

The dispute between China and Japan over sovereignty in the East China Sea has once again escalated after Japan issued a defense review this week regarding China’s oil and gas exploration in the disputed waters.

China has been constructing offshore gas platforms near what is considered the “Japan–China geographical equidistance line”—a boundary which serves in place of finalized exclusive economic zones (EEZs) as neither country has agreed on where their EEZs lie due to their ongoing dispute over the glorified rocks that make up most of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. These islets have for years been the focal point of the China–Japan territorial stalemate in the region, but are taking a backseat for the moment.

While the platforms are indeed on the Chinese side of the equidistance line, a fact that Japan also admitted in a follow-up statement, Japan is protesting China’s aggressive unilateral approach to development in the area, especially because this has been their M.O. on an even grander scale in the South China Sea.

Japan has reported (an unconfirmed) 16 Chinese structures so far in the East China Sea, about a dozen of which have been pinned on a map and shown in photos that have been published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. With EEZ demarcation still incomplete, Japan fears that the existence of so many structures near the current geographical equidistance line might give China the upper hand in staking claims on (and even expanding) marine territory. A scenario that seems more likely if China soon begins tapping into—and thereby controlling—access to many of the undersea gas reserves that extend into Japan’s waters.

On top of this, there is the more immediate concern that these platforms could double as operating bases for Chinese air patrols in what China declared unilaterally in 2013 was its maritime air defense identification zone.

Japan Defense Minister Gen Nakatani stated that “[China] could deploy a radar system on the platform and use it as an operating base for helicopters or drones conducting air patrols,” a concern that weighed heavily behind the approval of the defense review.

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Despite Japan’s continued requests that China halt its campaign of development in the region, China has pushed back. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang commented, “China’s oil and gas exploration in the East China Sea is in undisputable waters under China’s jurisdiction, and falls within China’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction. What Japan did provokes confrontation between the two countries, and is not constructive at all to the management of the East China Sea situation and the improvement of bilateral relations.”

With the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII approaching (August 15), tensions seem likely to increase. Relations between the two countries typically sour each year around this date, but this year it could be markedly so as Japan Prime Minister Abe has promised that while he will express remorse in a speech planned to mark the event he will not issue a “fresh apology,” Reuters reports. Previous prime ministers have issued apologies on the 50th and 60th anniversaries for the wars end.

H/T: The Diplomat

  • Seems as though China wants to escalate the rhetoric, maybe take it further? http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-07-23/china-furious-over-rig-pictures-what-japan-did-provokes-confrontation

    • Peter Zhang

      It sure does. So now that Japan has “provoked confrontation”, what is China going to do about it?

      • The interesting issue here is Japan needs a war more than anyone. Their debt-to-GDP ratio is scary. Nothing like a little war to help explain to your creditors that you’re going to default on them. Most of the debt is domestic, so a simple bow and a “shouganai, ne?” and a major conflict in the Japan sea would do the trick, I suppose.

  • Willieaames

    why cant they live like a brother? why always a war?