Sino-Japanese tensions over detention of the captain of a Chinese fishing trawler escalated as Beijing observed the 79th “Invasion Day” on Sept. 18, with large numbers protesting outside Tokyo’s diplomatic missions. The day is officially observed all over China every year to remember Japan‘s invasion, and the initial clashes with Chinese troops at Shenyang in 1931. Rallies were held outside Japanese missions in Beijing, Shenyang and Shanghai, with protesters shouting slogans like “Japan, get out of the Diaoyu Islands,” “Boycott Japanese goods” and “Don’t forget national humiliation.”
A Japanese court sent the captain of the trawler to detention for ramming his vessel into two coast guard ships, while 14 crew members were released. China retaliated by sending surveillance ships to the area and made preparations to resume drilling in the offshore Chunxiao oil and gas field in the East China Sea, claimed by both nations. (NDTV, Sept. 18)
Addng a new element to the fray, a Taiwanese fishing boat carrying two protesters entered the disputed zone near the Diaoyu Islands (known to the Japanese as the Senkaku Islands) this week, in what appeared to be a failed attempt to land on the disputed territory. The Japan Coast Guard base in Naha issued repeated warnings to the vessel and dispatched patrol boats and aircraft. Tokyo lodged an official diplomatic protest with Taiwan over the incident. (Daily Yomiuri, Sept. 15)
At the same time, tensions flared between Japan and Russia over contested islands. Moscow expressed anger over statements by Japan’s new foreign minister concerning the disputed Kuril Islands. Seidzi Maehara, who took office this week, made reference to the “Russian unlawful occupation” of four southern Kuril islands. Japan does not recognize Moscow’s right to the islands, which the Soviet army seized in the final days of World War II. (Xinhua, Sept. 17)
Although South Korea has its own territorial disputes with Japan, these were not mentioned in media coverage of Seoul’s reaction to Maehara’s appointment (e.g. Nikkei.com, Sept. 18), with emphasis instead on favorable reaction to his hardline position on China. Sino-Korean tensions also escalated this summer, and Maehara’s position on the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands are being taken as a favorable sign in Seoul. Maehara made his comments in his capacity as minister in charge of Okinawa and the Northern Territories.