How much tension could a chain of uninhabited islands create?
Quite a bit, apparently, as many Chinese take to the streets in outrage following Japan’s decision to nationalize three of the Senkaku islands. Concurrently, some Japanese have voiced a desire to revise the current constitution. The Mainichi Daily, a leading national daily, has been keenly reporting on the rapidly developing unease in the region, as of course has the entire Japanese press.
The territorial friction caused by the chain of islands is nothing new. Contested among Japan, China and Taiwan, the islands have constituted an ever-present issue for East Asia. The matter reached its near-breaking point on September 12 when the government of Japan purchased three of the disputed islands from a private owner. In response, Chinese citizens took to the Internet, calling for mass protests against what they saw as a violation of China’s sovereignty. These demonstrations, which took place the days following Japan’s decision, occurred throughout the country, some turning violent.
Japan’s current stance on the sensitive issue can be gleamed from a recent survey done by the Mainichi Daily. The poll’s findings revealed that 65% of those questioned were “in favor of revising the postwar Constitution,” which was a 7% increase since the last issue’s evaluation. Such a revision could lead to alteration of the nation’s war inhibiting articles. The primary reason stated for this desire for change was the opinion that the current Constitution “does not fit with the times.” This percentage will likely increase following China’s decision to deploy an array of ships to the disputed territory, which the Japanese Coast Guard has deemed an “unprecedented” intrusion.
Whether or not conflict will break out between the two nations is yet to be seen. Though it is clear that tension will not decrease unless diplomatic action manages to calm both sides, and based on their current stances, a compromise won’t be easy.
See Lani Luo’s China Blotter (to the right) for another perspective on this issue.