Women in military formations representing the People's Liberation Army of the People's Republic of China during their national commemorations honoring the 60th anniversary of the socialist revolution of 1949., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
September 11, 2012
China Accuses Japan of Stealing After Purchase of Group of Disputed Islands
By JANE PERLEZ
New York Times
TIANJIN, China — The Chinese government accused Japan on Tuesday of stealing a group of disputed islands in the East China Sea, hours after the Japanese government announced that it had bought them from their private Japanese owners for nearly $30 million.
In a show of strength, China sent two maritime law enforcement ships to the islands, which are known as the Diaoyu in China and the Senkaku in Japan.
The ships, belonging to the China Marine Surveillance, are commonly deployed in the South China Sea, where China and its neighbors have other territorial disputes over islands.
Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency, said Tuesday that the marine agency had drafted an “action plan” for asserting China’s claim to the disputed islands.
The Japanese government’s purchase of the islands from a Japanese family was intended to prevent the conservative governor of Tokyo from buying them, a step that would have heightened the clash with China, Japanese officials said. The Tokyo governor, Shintaro Ishihara, had said he would develop the islands, something the national government does not plan to do.
But in an unusual array of strong statements by top leaders in recent days, China has asserted that the islands have belonged to China since ancient times.
Over the weekend, the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, warned the Japanese prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting in Russia that nationalizing the islands would be illegal, Xinhua reported.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the purchase of the islands by the Japanese government “cannot alter the fact the Japanese side stole the islands from China.”
The confrontation between China and Japan comes as the Chinese government nears the start of a once-in-a-decade leadership transition at a Communist Party Congress expected to be held within weeks.
Some Western analysts say they believe that the strong public defense of China’s territorial claims may be a way to deflect attention from an unusually rocky succession process by shaking up the strong Chinese nationalist feelings against Japan.
The Chinese state news media have not reported that the country’s presumptive new leader, Vice President Xi Jinping, has canceled meetings with foreign leaders since last Wednesday. His absence has provoked widespread speculation about his condition on the Internet. In contrast, the state media have been full of reports in the last several weeks about the disputed islands and what are presented as the transgressions of the Japanese.
China and Japan have a long history of conflict, and the brutal Japanese occupation of China during World War II left bitter memories among many Chinese. Japanese nationalists, for their part, view China with suspicion.
Nationalist sentiment against Japan has surged in China in recent weeks over the disputed islands even as both countries observed the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations this month.
Two weeks ago, Chinese protesters ripped the Japanese flag off the car of Japan’s ambassador to China, Uichiro Niwa, as he traveled through Beijing.
On Tuesday, Japan announced that it was sending a new envoy, Shinichi Nishimiya, to replace Mr. Niwa, who was considered too sympathetic to China by some Japanese members of Parliament.
The intensity of the feelings in China against the Japanese purchase of the islands was expressed in academic circles.
Hu Lingyuan, deputy director of the Center for Japanese Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, said the Japanese notion of reducing tensions by buying the islands before the Tokyo government could do so would not mollify Beijing.
“Justifying the so-called nationalization as a means to keep the Diaoyu Islands situation stable is self-deception,” he said of the purchase. “The Chinese people won’t fall for the Noda government’s lie.”
In contrast, a prominent Chinese journalist, Wang Shuo, the managing editor of Caixin Media, said Tuesday on his microblog, “China is protesting because it cannot accept any transfer of property rights that is not under Chinese sovereignty and actual rule.” He added: “The Japanese government bought the island to prevent its being bought by a right-wing Japanese politician. It could help contain the situation.”
The situation would be worse if the Tokyo governor had bought the islands. By intervening with its own purchase, the Japanese government can block efforts by Japanese nationalists, who have sailed to the islands in the past few weeks to try to occupy them, to land there.
A storekeeper in Beijing who gave only his surname, Li, said: “When other countries insult the United States, America strikes back with force, defending its honor. But when China is actually attacked, when its people are dying, all we do is insult the attacker. I’m ashamed to be Chinese.”
Bree Feng and Adam Century contributed research.