Experts cite a lack of foreign policy expertise within the ruling Democratic Party of Japan for the contentious acquisition of three of the islands in the East China Sea, and are calling on the government to reverse Japan’s decades-old official position and acknowledge that the Senkakus’ sovereignty is indeed disputed by China, as well as Taiwan.
According to the Japan Times, the government has attempted to justify the nationalization of Uotsuri, Kitakojima and Minamikojima in the Senkaku chain by portraying the move as necessary to block hawkish Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara’s plan to purchase the islands from a Saitama businessman.
But such claims have failed to appease Beijing, which apparently suspects the central government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government of colluding to solidify Japan’s control of the uninhabited islands and to weaken China's own territorial claim over them, the report added.
In China, meanwhile, the Communist Party is scheduled to hold a rare national congress on November 8 at which Vice President Xi Jinping is expected to replace Hu Jintao as the country's new leader.
According to the report, experts said Beijing can no longer ignore rampant anti-Japanese sentiment among sizeable elements of the public because the nationwide wave of anger triggered by the Senkaku nationalization could easily evolve into a revolt against the Communist Party's rule, as frustration is already mounting over the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor.
"China's leaders are being tested (based on the extent of) their hardline stance on Japan," Mouri at Waseda University noted. Many commentators agree that while China could demand that Japan finally acknowledge that a territorial dispute exists over the islands, Beijing will eventually return to the same stance proposed by Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping in the ''70s: namely, to put the issue firmly on the back burner again.
"Although China's leaders are likely to demand that Japan rescind its nationalization of the Senkakus, they also understand that it's hard for Tokyo to do so" right now, Asai said.
"The middle ground would involve shelving the issue and beginning to codevelop the East China Sea gas field again, as China has frozen its participation since the 2010 (coast guard run-in) incident," Asai added.
Analysts are also urging that a bilateral diplomatic hotline be set up to help resolve future crises, since neither China, Japan nor the US want the Senkakus rift to degenerate into warfare. "A military confrontation is the last thing we want," Endo at the University of Tsukuba said, "but we have to brace for every possibility."
Tokyo: A month after Japan nationalized the disputed Senkaku Islands, the furor that erupted shows no signs of abating and China has yet to indicate it is willing to back down and work to restore the badly frayed bilateral ties.
First Published: Friday, October 12, 2012, 18:02