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Concerns mount as Japan, China island dispute shows no sign of easing (+video)

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This follows a rise in anti-Japanese protests, which have spread to close to 100 Chinese cities, according to The Christian Science Monitor. But the Japanese government has thus far been cautious in how it has dealt with the dispute, in part perhaps because of proximity of the flareup to the Sept. 18 anniversary of Japan’s invasion and occupation of Manchuria, something that spurs protests annually, island disputes aside.

In an opinion piece, Bloomberg View columnist William Pesek writes that the tiny islets that are in dispute don't appear to be worthy of an international incident. But, he argues, this flareup between China and Japan feels different than past face-offs, like the sweeping 2005 protests over Japanese school textbooks downplaying Japan's role in World War II.

“The Japanese call them the Senkaku Islands, the Chinese refer to them as Diaoyu. Let me suggest a more appropriate name: Goat Islands. Goats are all you will find on the cluster of uninhabited rocks over which Japanese and Chinese seem ready to go to war,” writes Mr. Pesek.

He continues:

Diplomats in Tokyo and Beijing … are blaming one another over a mushrooming international crisis that has U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta worried about a military “blowup,” the last thing the world needs right now.

That isn’t as hyperbolic as it might sound. It is easy to envision a couple of Japanese businessmen being dragged from their corporate offices in Shanghai and beaten, or even killed, by an angry mob. Things could get out of hand very quickly, which explains why Panasonic Corp. (6752) and Canon Inc. are shutting Chinese plants. That goes, too, for naval ships near the disputed islands. Miscalculations, collisions and gunfire that lead to broader armed conflict aren’t hard to imagine. 

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