A Chinese trawler that had ventured into Japanese territorial waters found itself surrounded by Japanese coastguards on 7 September. The trawler tried to escape but in so doing rammed a Japanese naval vessel. The crew were arrested. The incident took place not far from the Senkaku archipelago (Diaoyutai in Chinese). These eight almost deserted islands, some 170km northeast of Taiwan, belong to Japan, but China has claimed sovereignty over them since the 1970s. China’s claims have mainly been voiced in measured terms, but now they are being expressed more stridently, reflecting a shift in the balance of power in Asia between an increasingly powerful China, which feels itself constricted, and a defensive Japan. The diplomatic tension that followed the 7 September incident revealed the extent to which China is able to flex its muscles when it comes to an area with high strategic importance for Beijing. The detention of the captain of the Chinese boat, extended by a Japanese court on 19 September, led the Chinese foreign minister to threaten: “If Japan continues in this ill-advised manner, it will get a taste of its own medicine.” There followed numerous “patriotic” protests and Japanese flag-burnings, from Beijing to Shanghai (whether spontaneous… Read full this story
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