With the recent news that Shin Shin, the female panda at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo, is pregnant and expected to give birth sometime this month, many have been excited, as it would be the first panda birth at the zoo in over 20 years. But now the people of China aren’t too happy about the whole situation, as Shintaro Ishihara, Tokyo’s outspoken governor, has made suggestions about what the baby panda should be named. See, Shin Shin, and the male panda Ri Ri, are on loan to the Ueno Zoo from the country of China, and Governor Ishihara has said that the newborn should be named after the set of islands that Japan and China are in a high-tension territorial dispute over.
Suggesting either ‘Sen Sen’ or ‘Kaku Kaku’, Ishihara came up with the names as a play on words of the disputed Senkaku islands, located in the East China Sea. Asked about his thoughts on the pregnant panda at press conference on Thursday, the governor joked that giving the baby panda one of those names would let China “have control” of the Senkakus when the pandas return to the country.
While only said in jest, those in Beijing were seeing red the next day. Hong Lei, with China’s Foreign Ministry, told the press on Friday that Ishihara’s comments only served to weaken China-Japan relations, and that no matter what the people of Japan name the baby, the pandas will always belong to China. He also added whatever name they give to the disputed islands (known as the Diaoyu in China), would not change the fact that they are Chinese territory.