Japan and China move toward open clash


While the world is preoccupied with the Middle East, a serious conflict is brewing in East Asia, between two powers with a history of military conflagration rather fresh in mind. For centuries Japan and China have disputed the ownership of the small island chain which the Japanese call the Senkaku Islands and the Chinese call the Diaoyu Islands. The islands themselves are of little value, but the ocean rights, notably including the right to drill for oil, are of ever—greater economic and strategic interest. A major oil field is thought to lie there.

Now, Japan has actually awarded a Japanese oil company drilling rights in the economic zone it claims, based on its contention to exercise sovereignty over the Senkakus. The oil company carries the provocative name Teikoku Oil, which means 'Imperial Oil' and echoes the rhetoric under which Japan ravaged China in the Twentieth Century.

Japan's move follows an increasingly shrill campaign in China whipping up violent demonstrations against Japan in many cities. Chinese spokesmen are demanding with regularity a more 'sincere' apology from Japan over its wartime actions, despite many such apologies already on the record.

Two major powers, with historical antagonism, making increasingly threatening statements and moves, is a topic our press prefers to ignore. Drilling is not imminent, but Japan's move represents a definite escalation in tensions. China is all but certain to respond. Be warned, this could lead to big, big trouble.

Hat tip: Dennis Sevakis

Thomas Lifson   7 14 05