Ties between Japan and China face a “grim test” in the coming years amid signs that Japan is making preparations to occupy disputed islands in the East China Sea, a Chinese naval researcher wrote today.
The holding of regular U.S.-Japanese military exercises, deployment of troops to the southwest of the country and improvements in military intelligence indicate Japan is preparing to occupy the Diaoyu islands, Xing Guangmei, a law researcher with the Naval Research Institute of the People’s Liberation Army, wrote in the China Daily newspaper.
Japan, which administers the islands, has no official plan to station troops there. The government has said it is prepared to defend the uninhabited islets, known as Senkaku in Japanese, against foreign invasion.
“Japan, of course, wants to have it both ways; it wants to share in the dividends from China’s economic growth, while maintaining a hardline stance in its relations with China,” Xing wrote. “It is therefore extremely unlikely that there will be any detente in bilateral relations during Abe’s term in office. Sino-Japanese relations face a grim test in the coming years.”
The comments come after Abe aide Isao Iijima and Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki each visited China in quick succession this month, amid signs of a more conciliatory tone following a decisive victory for Abe’s party in upper house elections. Saiki, who arrived July 29 for a two-day visit, held a short meeting with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the official Xinhua News Agency reported today.
Iijima said after his visit that a summit meeting was possible in the not-so-distant future, Kyodo news agency reported July 29.
A meeting between China and Japan’s leaders is “extraneous” and Abe’s efforts to seek a meeting are a “show” serving political interests, China’s state-owned Global Times newspaper said in an editorial yesterday.
Abe, who has pledged to strengthen national security, stepped up his rhetoric in the run-up to the July 21 election, accusing China of trying to change the regional status quo by force.
His victory has caused anxiety in East Asia as he has made it clear he wants to revise the country’s pacifist constitution and bolster the military, Xing wrote today. Abe will actively leverage economic and trade cooperation with China and “get tough” over territorial disputes in the East China Sea, Xing said.
Relations between the two largest economies in Asia turned frostier last September than any point since the normalization of diplomatic ties in 1972, with Japan buying three islands also claimed by China from a private Japanese owner, setting off protests across China.
— With assistance by Henry Sanderson