Activists from Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and Macau are organizing a trip to the disputed Tiaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea in response to plans by a group of Japanese lawmakers to land on the disputed islands Aug. 19.
The latest bout of tension has been caused by Japan and can be traced to a campaign launched in April by Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara to buy the Tiaoyutais, known as the Diaoyutai Islands in China and the Senkaku Islands in Japan, from their private owners.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda jumped on the bandwagon in July and vowed to nationalize the island, kicking off a game of brinkmanship in domestic politics and intensifying the territorial dispute with Taiwan and China.
Taking advantage of a time when Japan is preoccupied by the Tiaoyutai issue, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev traveled July 3 to the Southern Kurils, which Japan refers to as the Northern Territories, to reinforce Moscow's claim to those islands. This was followed by an Aug. 10 visit by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to Takeshima island in the Sea of Japan.
Japan should not view the development as a historical coincidence and must deal with it seriously, in light of the possibility of Russia, South Korea, China and Taiwan allying with each other against Japan.
Tokyo must realize that nationalism does not exist only in Japan but also in other countries. Chinese President Hu Jintao has not landed on the Tiaoyutais because China follows a policy of restraint.
In fact, the status quo of the Tiaoyutais already tilts in Japan's favor, thanks to restraint by the concerned parties. If Japan does not restrain itself and causes a change in the status quo, it will not be necessarily favorable to Japan.
Japan should not allow domestic populist politics to lead the situation and should return to a sensible diplomatic approach as soon as possible. (Editorial abstract -- Aug. 14, 2012)
(By Y.F. Low)