Where’s the referee?

Like kids fighting in the sandbox.

Japan and China intensified yesterday as Tokyo took steps towards granting Japanese companies the right to test-drill for oil and gas in a disputed area of the East China Sea.

China protested furiously. “Japan has come up with a provocation to China’s rights and the norm of international relations,” Qin Gang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said. “China has already made a protest to Japan, and reserves the right to take further reaction,” he added.


Defence analysts believe that by giving Japanese companies the right to send in drilling ships, the chances of a clash possibly involving naval patrol boats, are now much higher.

Although the recent deterioration in relations between the two Asian neighbours has been focused on Japan’s perceived lack of remorse for wartime atrocities, analysts believe that the undersea energy battle is the real issue.

I’m going to stay neutral on this one until I understand it better. The one thing I understand is that it’s bad news for everybody, all around.

The Discussion: 17 Comments

China and Japan

Here in Japan its hard for any one to accept that the riots were anything but scripted by the government, especially in view of Beijing’s iron fist in other areas. So it leaves one asking why? Why does the Chinese government wish to embark on a Campa…

April 13, 2005 @ 6:01 pm | Comment

An interesting development would be if Japan and Korea came to some agreement to share rights to the islands, resulting in a China vs Japan + Korea situation. I’d think it would be harder for China to run masking arguments (eg textbook changes) against Korea, although they’d probably just argue that Korea was reverting to being a lapdog of its old imperialist masters. Still, could be interesting.

I’m sure there are various reasons impeding the practicality/reality of that situation eg Korean unwillingness to cooperate with the Japanese on this issue, each party’s reluctance to concede anything, etc.

April 13, 2005 @ 7:39 pm | Comment

This particular clash has little to do with islands. Rather, it is because of competing claims to water. China claims the whole East China Sea almost up to Okinawa. Japan claims a fifty-fifty split. Neither will budge.

April 13, 2005 @ 8:10 pm | Comment

The Dysfunctional Giant

Then you look at actual news in China, and you realize that their leadership is, to borrow a phrase from Brad DeLong, nothing more than a clown show. Inciting riots against your neightbor and one of your largest trading partners is hardly the behavio…

April 13, 2005 @ 8:57 pm | Comment

I see this as cause and effect … the Japanese are adopting a harder line because of what’s going on in China … and so would I in their position.

April 13, 2005 @ 10:36 pm | Comment

I would be very interested in seeing the next move by Beijing. Seeing as how neither party seems willing to back down, and seeing as how Beijing does not have the same leverage over Japan as it does over Taiwan, things could get very interesting very quickly. If Japan crosses too many more lines, the nationalist sentaments inside of China could bubble a little too fiercely. The Chinese can always threaten to attack Taiwan if Taiwan “goes too far.” They can’t just threaten Japan (even economically) lightly. I am not inferring there would be any live-fire conflict, but if this continues to escalate, Beijing might quickly finding itself having to cool some tempers internally. Hmm…i sense a loss of face coming for one side or the other…and Japan has less to lose by being intransigant in this case IMO.

April 13, 2005 @ 11:37 pm | Comment

The issue in question has nothing to do with Korea. Japan’s disagreement with Korea is over Tokdo island while Japan’s disagreement with China is over the Diaoyutai islands.

By claiming the Diaoyutai islands (a few small uninhabited rocks in the East China Sea) and using the 50-50 criteria, Japan is able to claim a much wider area of the East China Sea as part of her exclusive economic zone. (Note: Taiwan also claims the Diaoyutai islands in addition to mainland China and Japan).

Here’s a BBC article with a good map of the rival claim lines

April 13, 2005 @ 11:56 pm | Comment

BTW, the Diaoyutai islands are labeled with their Japanese name “Senkaku” in the map above.

April 13, 2005 @ 11:58 pm | Comment


BBC news map is pretty biased, I noticed at one time they color Tibet as an independent country in the map of Asia. They also paint Taiwan as a different country, and then given India all the questioned territories. Is BBC news turning right wing also like CNN and ABC news?

April 14, 2005 @ 9:29 am | Comment

(BBC news is still much more fair and balanced and interesting than most other news.)

April 14, 2005 @ 10:33 am | Comment


I too think the BBC is a more fair and balanced news source than most US media outlets. Of course they also approach events from a western point of view with all of the associated biases. US media coverage of China all seems to start with the premise that the Chinese government is the source of all evil, and everything that occurs in China is interpreted as evidence in this light no matter how illogical the connection. The BBC also does this to some extent, but not nearly as much as US media like the NY Times.

April 14, 2005 @ 1:02 pm | Comment


The BBC is run by Britain’s left wing labor government. They are so far away from being right wing that it isn’t funny.

April 14, 2005 @ 8:17 pm | Comment

On this situation, Japan carved up the drilling rights a very long time ago but had been reluctant to go any further because of the trouble that it would cause with China, but now that things can’t get much darker, Japan sees this as one of the few things that it can do to hit back at Beijing.

Beijing has been sample drilling there for years, and Japan hasn’t yet interviened to stop them.

Right now, there is very little that Tokyo can do to express its disatisfaction with China. In almost all cases it can’t do anything without uniquivickly becoming the bad guy. At least on this issue it will have the support of the US because it was the US who gave Japan these islands (The Senkaku islands were seized by the US after WWII and ‘returned’ to Japan, Japan didn’t take them of claim them, they were handed them by a US administration who didn’t want to see them in Chinese hands).

On a side note, it has been announced that a controversial text book that was being GIVEN AWAY FOR FREE. Has been laughed almost out of existance and is only being used with grade 7 students who wouldn’t learn about war crimes anyway (or even WWII for that matter) because of their age.

April 14, 2005 @ 8:26 pm | Comment

Hui Mao – thanks for clearing up my geographic errors.

April 14, 2005 @ 9:06 pm | Comment

Just one thing to note, the locations where China has been drilling is inside China’s exclusive economic zone even by the Japanese claim line (see link to the BBC article for the map). Where Japan is proposing to start drilling is in the disputed area of the sea. Japan opposes China’s drilling in the undisputed Chinese zone because Japan claims the gas fields where China is drilling could be connected to fields inside the disputed area.

April 15, 2005 @ 2:13 am | Comment

Not to get tinfoil hattish on y’all, but does the timing of all those events strike you as a little bit fishy? I mean, the oilfield disputes nipping right at the heels of the giant progress?

Is it possible that the Chinese government caught wind of Japan’s intentions to drill, then unleashed the demonstrations as a warning? (This wouldn’t be hard to do because the bad blood is perennual). Then Japan announced it’s plans to drills right after the demos, as a big “f-you”.

April 15, 2005 @ 7:53 am | Comment

Battle panda,

“Not to get tinfoil hattish on y’all, but does the timing of all those events strike you as a little bit fishy? I mean, the oilfield disputes nipping right at the heels of the giant progress?”

The Japanese right wing government is a calculating opportunist. That’s how they invaded Korea and swallowed up Taiwan before, now they try to do the same trick to China nd Korea over Diayutao and Dokto. Notice how they only advance when China was in conflict and trouble, the last time they advanced, it was when the tension with Taiwan was escalating. This time they advance on Diaoyutao, China got unfairly criticized by the biased western media for protesting against Japans textbooks whitewashing. Like ACB said earlier, China forced us to annex Chinese territories, it is not our faults.

April 17, 2005 @ 12:07 pm | Comment

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