The long-standing dispute between Japan and China over a chain of uninhabited islands, called the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China, has surged to an alarming extent. And the Obama administration has foolishly made the United States a party to that emotional, dangerous feud.
Controversy over the islands has simmered for decades with periodic flare-ups, but matters escalated in April 2012 when firebrand Japanese nationalist Shintaro Ishihara, governor of Tokyo, proposed that the government buy three of the islands from their private landowner to discourage any Chinese moves to implement Beijing’s claims. The situation became even uglier in mid-August when fourteen Chinese activists landed on the islands and were arrested by Japanese authorities. Shortly thereafter, ten Japanese activists, including five Tokyo assembly members, landed on the largest island. That move produced large, angry demonstrations in several Chinese cities, with vandals overturning and damaging dozens of Japanese-brand automobiles.
Another spasm of violent demonstrations, which the Chinese government seemed to encourage, erupted in mid-September in response to the Japanese cabinet’s decision approving the purchase. Protests occurred in more than fifty Chinese cities, with rioters again overturning Japanese-brand cars, publicly destroying televisions and other electronics products, and burning the Japanese flag. In several instances, attacks were directed against offices of Japanese corporations. The security environment became so dangerous that several major companies, including Panasonic, Canon, Honda, Mazda, and Toyota, shut their offices and factories in China for several days.