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Friday, Sept. 10, 2010


King-of-the-islands tiff

The Japan Coast Guard early Wednesday arrested the captain of a Chinese fishing vessel after his ship hit two Japan Coast Guard patrol boats on Tuesday inside Japanese territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

Because the ship was inside territorial waters, the Japanese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday lodged a protest with Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua by phone. The Chinese Foreign Ministry, in turn, summoned Japanese Ambassador to China Uichiro Niwa on Wednesday to lodge a protest.

Some 40 Chinese activists staged a protest in front of the Japanese Embassy in Beijing on Wednesday. There may be more protests in China and Hong Kong. Both Tokyo and Beijing must prevent the latest incident from getting out of hand.

On Tuesday morning, the fishing vessel ignored an order to stop from a Japan Coast Guard patrol boat about 12 km north-northwest of Kuba Island in the Senkaku Islands and sailed away. It hit the patrol boat about an hour later, then hit another Japan Coast Guard patrol boat. Coast guard officials boarded the Chinese ship and made it stop. Its captain was served an arrest warrant shortly after 2 a.m. Wednesday.

China and Taiwan started sovereignty claims over the Senkaku Islands only when the existence of offshore resources, including oil, was confirmed around 1970. China calls them the Diaoyu Islands and Taiwan, the Tiaoyutai Islands. But it is historically clear that the islands belong to Japan. In 1895, the Japanese government declared the islands to be part of Okinawa Prefecture. Japanese nationals built a wharf and a factory to process dried bonito on the islands, which are no longer inhabited.

Before the offshore resources came to light, China's maps and the Chinese government recognized the Senkaku Islands as part of the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa Prefecture). In 1992, China enacted a territorial waters law that said the Diaoyu Islands are part of China. Beijing should realize that if it fans anti-Japanese feelings following the latest incident, it will only damage ties at a time when economic mutual dependence is deepening.

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