The Chinese embassy in Tokyo has made an announcement calling on all Chinese citizens in Japan to register with its consular section as tensions between the two countries continue to escalate over a territorial dispute over the sovereignty of a string of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. The embassy’s announcement on its website encouraged all the Chinese living in Japan to register “to facilitate consular assistance” in case of “a major unexpected emergency.” Chinese living in Japan were asked to submit contact details of next of kin in Japan and China.
The announcement has been on the website since early November, but has attracted attention due to China’s announcement of Saturday of putting up an “air defense identification zone” in the East China Sea, which overlaps with the disputed territories called Senkakus by the Japanese but also claimed by China as the Diaoyu Islands. The call for registration with the embassy comes amid the release of a government survey showing a record percentage of Japanese citizens who dislike China. According to a Japanese cabinet poll released on Saturday, 80.7 percent of Japanese “do not feel friendly” towards China.
Dr. Sheila A. Smith, a senior fellow for Japan Studies at the Council of Foreign Relations in Washington, said that the Chinese announcement of the air defense zone over the weekend “stepped up the possibility of an incident between the two militaries.” Smith said that the action “confirms what many around the region have feared – China’s leaders are determined to pursue their interests with little heed to their neighbors,” she said. According to data from recent Japanese census, there are more than 600,000 Chinese people living in Japan. Chinese media have reported that majority of this number are students, business people and employees of Japanese companies, but it is unclear how many of them have retained Chinese citizenship.
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