“These territorial disputes could destabilize the region and cause an arms race in Southeast Asia,” Hyun Dae Song of Korea’s Kookmin University said at a press conference in Tokyo on Tuesday.
Though the islands have been subject to claim and counterclaim for centuries, the current diplomatic row between Japan and China escalated after a Chinese fishing boat crashed into a Japan Coast Guard vessel there in 2010, resulting in the arrest of the Chinese captain. That set off a series of events, eventually leading to a Japanese governor’s proposal to buy the islands.
Mr. Ishihara, a right-wing populist infamous for inflammatory statements about China and Japan’s other neighbors, had raised 1.45 billion yen in donations to buy the islands, develop facilities on them, and explore for oil and gas in the surrounding ocean. Although this would have been far more provocative than the national government’s current plan, which is to do nothing with the islands, China’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the purchase.
In addition to the fractious history between Japan and China, leaders involved in the decisionmaking process are coming to the end of their tenures and are facing pressure at home not to give an inch.
“Neither government can be seen to be weak-kneed,” says University of Tokyo’s Professor Akio Takahara.