In a white paper released by China’s defense ministry on Tuesday, Beijing has made accusations pointing to Japan as “making trouble” over the disputed island chain in the East China Sea by nationalizing it. Japan is now exerting administrative authority over the islands it calls the Senkakus, but are still being claimed by China, calling it the Diayus.
Starting in September of last year when the Tokyo government purchased the islands from a private Japanese owner, relations between the two countries have degraded significantly. “On the issues concerning China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, some neighboring countries are taking actions that complicate or exacerbate the situation, and Japan is making trouble over the issue of the Diaoyu Islands,” the Chinese Ministry of Defense said in an annual report. Referencing a military-civilian drilling project started in October last year, the report claims that the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s activities in the disputed territories were for marine surveillance and coordination to respond to maritime emergencies. Japan has labeled such activities as provocative, leading to escalated tensions between the two countries’ maritime forces.
There have been incidences where fighter planes from both countries have been scrambled to see to provocative actions coming from Chinese activities in the islands’ waters, acts which Tokyo has called a violation of its sovereignty over the islands. National Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said in a press conference that Japan is the one infringing on Chinese territorial sovereignty and must stop its aggressive actions. Yang repeated that China’s position has ever been the same – the islands have been an inherent part of Chinese territory since ancient times. “The Chinese government and armed forces are determined and able to safeguard China’s sovereignty over the islands,” he said. “China has always advocated peaceful ways as well as dialogue and consultations to settle territorial disputes.”
Japan has claimed that there is no dispute whatsoever, maintaining that the islands are an integral part of its own territory. The Chinese report also pointed to “other countries” strengthening its military position and alliances in the Asia-Pacific, making the situation tenser than it should be. This is seen as a veiled accusation of the United States’ “rebalancing” of forces, putting a more significant focus on the Asia-Pacific region. The United States, through Secretary of State John Kerry who is currently visiting the region, says it will not take sides on the sovereignty issue of the islands, but that it recognizes the islands are under Japan’s administration.