Sunday, September 23, 2012

Japan, China & Those Islands: Dueling flotillas increase tensions

A potentially deadly game of tit-for-tat is taking place at the two islands that are the centre of the dispute between China and Japan, both of whom claim ownership of the islands.

Smaller numbers of fishing boats were sent to the islands by China and then by Japan, but this week China upped the ante by dispatching 1,000 fishing boats to the islands:

On Monday, a flotilla of around 1,000 Chinese fishing boats was sailing for the islands.
Japan’s prime minister warned that this could take things to a new level:

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper quoted an aide to Yoshihiko Noda, the Japanese prime minister, as saying that the possible arrival of the fishing boats would take the dispute to a "new stage".

He told the paper: "The government is taking a wait-and-see approach for the moment. But we will not be able to sit by idly if fishing vessels reach the Senkaku islands in large numbers. It could lead to a new stage."

The coastguard could be forced to arrest the captains of any Chinese vessels that enter Japan's territorial waters, in a repeat of an incident that soured relations between the two countries in 2010. If the coastguard is unable to cope, some have speculated that the defence forces could become involved.

How long before someone dies, and the ships with big guns move into the disputed area?

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