East China Sea edging towards war...
Japan scrambled fighter jets on Dec. 13 after a Chinese maritime aircraft entered airspace over the disputed islands known as the Senkaku to the Japanese and the Diaoyu to China. The Japanese defense ministry said the incident was the first violation of Japanese airspace by a Chinese official aircraft since 1958. "It is extremely deplorable," said Osamua Fujimura, Japan’s chief government spokesman. Kyodo News quoted Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura that the plane belonging to the Chinese Oceanic Administration was spotted near the Uotsuri Island at 11:06 AM local time, and Japan's Air Self-Defense Force responded by dispatching F-15 jets. The response was of course prosted by Beijing. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said: "Flying a marine surveillance airplane in airspace above the Diaoyu Islands is completely normal. China urges Japan to stop illegal actions in the waters and airspace of the Diaoyu Islands. The Diaoyu islands and affiliated islands are part of China's inherent territory. The Chinese side calls on Japan to halt all entries into water and airspace around the islands." (Japan Today, FT, BBC News, Dec. 13)
Ominously, the incident took place on the same day that official ceremonies were held in Nanjing marking the 75th anniversary of the mass killing and rape committed there by Japanese troops—the "Rape of Nanking." The ceremony at the Nanjing Massacre Museum, attended by 9,000, began with air raid sirens, singing the national anthem, and soldiers in dress uniform carried large wreaths across a stage. In a sign of hope, there were some Japanese voices present as well. A contingent of Chinese and Japanese Buddhist monks chanted sutras for world peace. Kai Satoru, the son of a Japanese soldier who served in China, told reporters: "I am here to admit the crimes. They [Japanese soldiers] competed to kill people." China says 300,000, mostly civilians, were killed in the six weeks after the Japanese military entered the then capital on Dec. 13, 1937. Japanese historians, of course, dispute the number. (AFP, Dec. 13) (The conflict over the islands started to heat up in September, near the anniversary of the 1931 Japanese occupation of Manchuria.)
More ominously still, nationalism and militarism have become potent themes in Japanese parliamentary relections coming up this month, with Shinzo Abe's rihgt-opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), itself challenged from the right by Shintaro Ishihara, now openly caling for amending the "peace constitution." (Reuters, Dec. 2) And Abe isn't above playing the China card in his bid to maintain nuclear power in Japan after the Fukushima disaster: "Assume that places like China continue with nuclear power, and only Japan stops. Then at that point if there's an accident would Japan really be all right?" (SBS World News, Dec. 11)