Why this Japan-China island dispute could be Asia's next military flashpoint

China flexes military muscle amid coronavirus pandemic

Hong Kong (CNN)While China is engaged in a tense border standoff with India high in the Himalayas, a small group of islands thousands of miles away could be another military tinderbox waiting to explode.



센카쿠 열도, 아시아 다음 화약고 가능성 높다

    중국이 히말라야 산맥의 높은 곳에서 인도와 팽팽한 국경 대치 상태에 있는 동안 수천마일 떨어진 작은 섬들이 폭발을 기다리는 또 다른 군사적 발원지가 될 수도 있다.

도쿄와 베이징 모두 일본의 센카쿠 중국의 댜오위다오 등으로 알려진 무인도를 자국 영토라고 주장하지만 일본은 1972년부터 이를 관리해왔다.

도쿄 남서쪽 1,200마일(1,900km) 지점에 위치한 이 열도에 대한 긴장이 수년 동안 고조되어 왔으며, 이 주장이 수백 년 전으로 거슬러 올라가면서, 일본과 중국 어느 쪽도 물러서지 않을 것 같다.

그런 점에서 이 섬들은 월요일 밤 중국과 인도 사이의 불분명한 국경에서 수십 년간 지속된 긴장이 폭발하여 적어도 20명의 인도군의 목숨을 앗아간 충돌을 촉발했던 히말라야 산맥의 사태와 다르지 않다.

그 싸움은 비록 치명적이긴 하지만 비교적 제한적이었다. 그리고 양측은 그 후 며칠 동안 긴장을 완화시켰다.

Ki Chul Hwang Conpaper editor curator

황기철 콘페이퍼 에디터

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edited by kcontents

Both Tokyo and Beijing claim the uninhabited islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China, as their own, but Japan has administered them since 1972.

Tensions over the rocky chain, 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers) southwest of Tokyo, have simmered for years, and with claims over them dating back hundreds of years, neither Japan nor China is likely to back down over territory considered a national birthright in both capitals.

In that respect, the islands are not unlike the rocky heights of the Himalayas, where decades of tension on an ill-defined border between the territories of China and India erupted Monday night, precipitating a clash that cost the lives of at least 20 Indian troops.

The fighting, though deadly, was relatively confined -- and the two sides have talked down the tensions in the days since.

This aerial shot taken on September 15, 2010 shows the disputed islands known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China in the East China Sea.

But an unexpected flare-up in the Senkaku/Diaoyus could trigger a military confrontation between China and the United States.

That's because the United States has a mutual defense treaty with Japan. If Japanese territory is attacked by a foreign power, the United States is obligated to defend it.

Fears of a possible confrontation were heightened last week with the announcement from the Japanese coastguard that Chinese government ships had been spotted in the waters close to Senakaku/Diaoyu Islands every day since mid-April, setting a new record for the number of consecutive days.

By Friday, those sightings had reached 67 days in a row.

Taking unyielding stances

In response to the increased Chinese presence, Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, reasserted Tokyo's resolve at a news conference last Wednesday.

"The Senkaku Islands are under our control and are unquestionably our territory historically and under international law. It is extremely serious that these activities continue. We will respond to the Chinese side firmly and calmly," Suga said.

In a statement Friday, China's Foreign Ministry echoed that Japanese government's sentiments, from the reverse perspective.

"The Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands are an inherent part of China's territory, and it is our inherent right to carry out patrols and law enforcement activities in these waters."

Similar comments were recently published in China's state-run Global Times newspaper. The report, titled "Japanese conservatives disrupt recovering China-Japan ties by hyping Diaoyu Islands dispute," criticized attempts underway in Japan's Okinawa prefecture to change the administration of the islands, noting it could do serious harm to Japan-China relations.

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China lashes out at Japan for claim to Diaoyu Islands


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