Thursday, April 17, 2014
Japan’s tough Diaoyu position aimed at US
Global Times | March 13, 2012 19:58
By Jiao Kun
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During the ongoing two sessions, one of the proposals that stirred up public discussions was adding the weather over the Diaoyu Islands into the CCTV weather forecast program. Zheng Guoguang, administrator of the China Meteorological Administration, responded to the proposal by saying that there are no technological obstacles in implementing this proposal, and the weather over the Diaoyu Islands is a concern of Chinese fishermen.

In a recent poll on China's Weibo, 20.7 percent among more than 13,500 respondents picked this proposal from among several others as being the most plausible and feasible. The result shows public enthusiasm of a more active stance over the disputes.

China has been somewhat passive in response over the Diaoyu Islands disputes with Japan. Earlier this month, the Japanese cabinet released the names of some uninhabited isles affiliated to the Diaoyu Islands. In response, China released its own official version of names and descriptions of the Diaoyu Islands and those affiliated isles, which instantly stirred up protests from Japan.

For most Chinese, their reaction mainly comes out of nationalism. For them, the disputes are purely related to territory, sovereignty and potential resources like oil and natural gas. But for the Japanese, things are more complicated.

There are certainly nationalist emotions among the Japanese. Many Japanese netizens, who commented on the news concerning the latest weather forecast proposal, insisted the Islands are part of Japanese territory, and some criticized the current administration for not being tough enough on China.

But the most important element is the role of the US. In Japan, pro-US forces are trying to seize every moment of tension, so as to keep the US in Japan. This partly explains why Japan didn't hesitate to resort to arms when a Chinese fishing boat approached the Diaoyu Islands in September 2011, where no oil or gas has been produced yet.

In December, Japan and the US jointly held a military drill. Such military drills have been practiced for more than two decades, but this time the scale was unprecedented.

The reason was exactly the incident that happened in September. Japan and the US assumed that the waters near the Diaoyu Islands might be threatened by Chinese military forces, although in ordinary people's eyes a fishing boat barely represents a nation.

Before the joint military drill, Japanese politicians also questioned US leaders on their attitude toward the recent situation. Senior US officials, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, reportedly assured Japan that they would support their alliance.

It is hard for today's Chinese to imagine that ties to a foreign country can exert a decisive effect on one's domestic affairs. But this is exactly the case in Japan. In the postwar era, the Japan-US alliance serves as a benchmark for many of Japan's national policies.

It is with the help from this "firm alliance" that Japan was able to achieve a stable international environment and economic takeoff. Many Japanese still see the US presence as indispensable.

However, the US has hesitated to commit itself to Japan in recent years. They're already gradually moving their forces so as to alleviate their own defense burdens worldwide. Under such circumstance, Japan seeks to save this alliance through indicating various "threats," and China has become a good card for the Japanese to play. They want the US to realize that they need to work together to deal with China

Many ordinary Japanese still buy into this mentality promoted by politicians. It will only be when Japan untangles itself from this alliance that exaggerated Japanese nationalism over the Diaoyu Islands may end.

The author is a scholar living in Japan.

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