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INTERNATIONAL > East Asia & Pacific

Survey of newspaper editorials on Chinese ships’ intrusion into the Senkakus area

By Satoshi Sekoguchi

 

China’s offensive against Japan in the sea areas near the Senkaku Islands (in Ishigaki City, Okinawa) has suddenly escalated. A large number of fishing boats and government ships have intruded into Japan’s contiguous zone, some of them even entering territorial waters. It goes without saying that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) lodged a protest against China.

 

In most cases, one important viewpoint in comparing the editorials dealing with this issue is whom the editorials were addressed to. Sankei Shimbun and Nihon Keizai Shimbun addressed Japan, while Asahi Shimbun and Mainichi Shimbun addressed China.

 

Sankei expressed a clear sense of crisis in its editorial of Aug. 8, pointing out that “this should be considered a situation one step short of invasion. Japan must be prepared to deal with what may happen down the road.” It said that “the Shinzo Abe administration must not bow to the pressure of force” and should “take concrete steps to defend the Senkaku Islands.” It criticized the Liberal Democratic Party for neglecting its pledge during the 2012 House of Representatives election regarding the regular stationing of government officials on the Senkakus after it regained political power, demanding the stationing of personnel, including the Self-Defense Forces, on the islands as soon as possible and taking other concrete measures for the Senkakus’ defense.

 

Nikkei said on Aug. 9 that “it is necessary to strengthen security measures by the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) and take every possible step to ensure that Japan’s effective control is not compromised.” Since the balance of maritime security capability is in China’s favor, it pointed out that “the Japanese government should review to what the extent the JCG’s patrol boats and manpower need to be reinforced and take action speedily.”

 

Both papers noted that China had turned a deaf ear to MOFA’s protests. Sankei wrote that China “argues that (the Senkakus) are its national territory,” while Nikkei predicted in its editorial that “China is unlikely to refrain from such actions based on Japan’s protests,” condemning China strongly.

 

While demanding that China exercise restraint, Yomiuri Shimbun asked that the Japanese government deal with the situation calmly but firmly. (Aug. 9) Like Nikkei, this paper suggested that “it is important to build new patrol boats and increase personnel.”

 

Unlike the above three papers, Asahi (Aug. 10) and Mainichi (Aug. 10) made no mention of Japan’s defense measures. Asahi said that “if something is not done about this situation, there will be pervasive adverse effect on bilateral relations,” while Mainichi asked China to exercise restraint and refrain from unilateral actions that will heighten tensions. Both papers concentrated on demanding that China exercise restraint.

 

The two papers also mentioned the “four-point agreement” on the improvement of the bilateral relationship reached between the two countries two years ago. Asahi asserted, “The two sides agreed that cooperation, rather than conflict, is in their interest. They should go back to that agreement and settle this situation as soon as possible.” Mainichi also called for reconfirming the agreement and putting the process of improvement of ties back on track.

 

Some of the Chinese fishermen were “maritime militia,” guerillas at sea who have received military training. Sankei and Yomiuri both warned that “maritime militia and special forces aboard fake fishing boats may land on the Senkakus disguised as private citizens.” (Sankei, Aug. 8)

 

It was found that more than 100 maritime militia members were on board the Chinese fishing boats that flocked to the Senkakus area this month. Sankei pointed out in its editorial on Aug. 18 that the JCG is a police organization that has no power or capability to deal with foreign military organizations, asking if Japan will be able to overcome this crisis under the present condition. This paper called for “taking urgent action to put in place measures to stop these ‘advance guards of invasion’.” The situation is indeed critical. (Slightly abridged)

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