[Editorial] Escalating conflict between China and Japan

Posted on : 2010-09-28 15:35 KST Modified on : 2010-09-28 15:35 KST

A Chinese ship captain arrested by Japan on charges of violating the country’s territorial waters near the Daoyutai Islands, called the Senkaku Islands in Japan, has returned home. However, friction continues between China and Japan. The Chinese government, which applied heavy pressure on Japan before the release, has been demanding an apology and compensation from Japan even after the captain was freed, while Japan is refusing to do so. Conflicts between the two countries at the private level have also remained tense. The general Chinese consulate in Nagasaki was attacked with a flare bomb, while in China there is seething public opinion supporting a policy hardline, arguing that China showed its superior power to Japan.
It is not at all desirable for conflict to continue between these two countries neighboring the Korean Peninsula. In particular, it is exceedingly dangerous to leave the territorial dispute alone so that it can stir up nationalist emotions among citizens of China and Japan.
A year ago, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) took power, raising hopes for a new era of peace in Northeast Asia. Then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama presented a vision for an East Asian community and affirmed his position of valuing Asia. Meanwhile, then-Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa, a major player in the DPJ, visited China accompanied by some 100 members of the Diet of Japan.
Just a year later, the situation has been reversed. It was a Korean issue that prompted this reversal, namely the sinking of the Cheonan. After finding itself in an awkward position over the Okinawa U.S. military base relocation issue, Japan seized on the Cheonan incident in order to break through domestic opposition while at the same time abiding by the views of the United States. In the wake of this, there have been growing calls for emphasizing the U.S.-Japan alliance, and the government has backpedaled on its “valuing Asia” position. China suspects that the hardline position taken by Japan against Chinese fishing boats in the waters near the disputed islands, something it had previously tacitly accepted, is a part of this trend. It is now questioning whether Japan has been mobilized into the U.S. strategy to encircle China.
At this point, both countries must reflect objectively on the situation. China secured the outcome of the captain’s release with its hardline position, but it paid the price of instilling a sense of menace in surrounding nations. Meanwhile, the DPJ administration in Japan, which attempted a hardline strategy before finally abandoning it, has only succeeded in weakening its position domestically and increasing the voice of the country’s militant right wing. Moreover, instability has increased for the whole of Northeast Asia, including the Korean Peninsula. When viewed from the perspective of long-term, open national interests, this situation is not in the interests of China, Japan, or the Northeast Asia region. Now is the time for the two countries to end their war of words and put their heads together to solve the problem.
Please direct questions or comments to [englishhani@hani.co.kr]

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