East China Sea flashpoint: seldom reported positive signs


Japan and China are claiming sovereignty over three islands in the East China Sea known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. Both countries cite historical support for their claim. A Japanese businessman, Kunioki Kurihara, is said to have bought the islands forty years ago from a man who inherited them from ancestors holding them since the 19th Century. The Japanese government currently rents and administers Mr Kurihara’s three islands and a fourth owned by another member of his family. The fifth is already the property of the state.

In the 70s, proposals were made to develop petroleum resources on the continental shelf of the East China Sea and the Governments of China and Taiwan began to claim sovereignty over the islands. There have been a number of incidents which have increased tension between the three countries.

Positive signs

The central government currently bans landings on the uninhabited islands in order to avoid friction with Beijing and two days after Japan was struck by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, Beijing sent a rescue team of 15 people to help its stricken neighbour. It was the first time Tokyo had accepted such a mission from China.

The Central Bank of China and the Japanese Ministry of Finance have announced that from June 1st they will allow a direct trade between the two countries using the yuan and yen, surpassing the use of the U.S. dollar as the main currency.

On Tuesday Vincent Wei-cheng Wang, US Professor of Political Science, wrote to the Financial Times advocating that the US should ‘calm the waters’ by declaring that it opposes any use of force or unilateral provocative acts and encourages all good regional proposals for managing or resolving this dispute.

One such, he writes, is the recent proposal by Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou for an “East Sea peace initiative”, which calls for mutual restraint, shelving disputes and joint exploration.






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