|China’s hot air over uninhabited islands||
The recent tit-for-tat between China and Japan over the disputed islands in the East China Sea is not a new issue. The ownership of the uninhabited islands, known to the Japanese as the Senkaku Islands and to the Chinese as the Diaoyu Islands, is a serious issue for the two countries, with both claiming sovereignty over the islands.
China still has animosity toward Japan for the occupation of its territories during World War II. However, more than seven decades after the invasion, the Japanese have never agreed to give an apology, and Chinese citizens still blame the Japanese for killing millions of Chinese civilians and the massive destruction they left behind after the occupation.
Since the end of World War II, the United States’ policy has been to support Japan to counter the rising influence of China in the region. This has resulted in numerous military and diplomatic showdowns between Japan and China. However, due to the potential repercussions of any military conflict on their interests in other places, especially in the Middle East and West Asia, cooler heads have prevailed and there has not been a war over the islands.
The volleys of warnings and threats from both sides, especially by Chinese officials and media outlets, are inconsequential compared to a military conflict.
If China feels it is necessary, it could resort to economic reprisals by decreasing its imports of Japanese goods. China is Japan’s largest trading partner and is a very lucrative market for many Japanese products. In 2011, bilateral trade grew 14.3 percent in value to a record $345 billion. Thus, Japan’s robust economy is not completely immune from economic retaliation by China.
However, it is unimaginable that China and Japan would go to war over a group of tiny uninhabited islands, despite the fact that a Chinese newspaper recently said that an atom bomb should be dropped on Japan.
There will probably be much more bluster, but there will not be a war.
Javad Mansouri is a political analyst who formerly served as Iran’s ambassador to China.
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