The latest flare-up of tension between China and Japan over the disputed Diaoyutai Islands couldn't have come at a worse time as Sept. 18 is around the corner.
On Sept. 18, 1931, Japanese forces attacked the barracks of Chinese troops in Shenyang, a move that marked the beginning of the Japanese invasion and occupation of northeastern China that lasted until the end of World War II in 1945. It was known as the Mukden or Manchurian Incident.
The long-simmering Diaoyutai territorial row reached a new level this week, when the Japanese government unilaterally nationalized the uninhabited island chain which it calls the Senkaku Islands.
The cluster of barren isles has been under Japan's administrative control since 1972, but it is also claimed by Taiwan and China.
The new bout of tension among the three claimants was mainly provoked by Japanese right-wing nationalists. Tokyo's nationalization move has immediately drawn strong protests from Taiwan and China.
In an unusual show of force, six Chinese patrol vessels entered what Japanese media called Japan's territorial waters around the Diaoyutai Islands Friday to reassert its sovereignty claim.
Anti-Japan protests also raged in urban China over the weekend. Angry demonstrators attempted to storm the Japanese embassy in Beijing Saturday.
At this critical moment, we hope Japan will refrain from taking any action that could worsen the territorial spat or even destabilize the regional situation.
Japanese ruling and opposition parties should realize that nationalism does not only exist in Japan but also in other countries. Given its infamous imperial past and wartime atrocities against Chinese people, Japan should make every possible effort to prevent the current Diaoyutai row from reopening historical wounds or rekindling old hatreds.
Located some 100 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan, the Diaoyutais are geographically and geologically associated with Taiwan. It is indisputably an inherent part of the Republic of China's territory.
Before handing over administrative control of the Diaoyutais to Japan along with the Okinawa Islands in 1972, the United States assured the ROC - as Taiwan is officially known - that the handover would not affect its sovereignty claim to the island chain.
Taiwan should not be marginalized amid the ongoing flare-up over the Diaoyutais. We should not let Beijing speak on our behalf. We should seize every opportunity to speak out about our claim to the island group and take timely action to protect our fishing rights in the region.
While asserting our claim over the Diaoyutais, we should also adopt measures to promote President Ma Ying-jeou's "East China Sea Peace Initiative" by calling on all claimants to shelve differences and purse peace and reciprocity and cooperate in exploring resources in the area. (Sept. 16, 2012).
(By Sofia Wu)