Japan Beat China To The Draw By Nationalizing Senkaku Islands
Japan's nationalization of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea has sparked security tensions in the region for the past 10 years, prompting Tokyo, known for its pacifist Constitution, to be acutely wary of military threats from Beijing, Kyodo News reported.
Photo Insert: The Senkakus are under the jurisdiction of Japan's southern island prefecture of Okinawa -- a geopolitically important region that still hosts the bulk of US bases in the country.
Japan has administered the Senkakus, but China has claimed the uninhabited islets since the early 1970s, calling them Diaoyu, after studies by the United Nations (UN) indicated there may be potentially lucrative gas reserves around them.
On Sept. 11, 2012, the Japanese government of then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda put the islands under state control, five months after then Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara abruptly announced the metropolis would buy some of the Senkakus from a Japanese private owner.
Subsequently, China has stepped up provocations in the nearby waters, frequently sending its coast guard vessels near the islets, destabilizing the regional security environment.
Beijing has insisted the islands are its "inherent territory." In Japan, worries are mounting that the leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping could attempt to invade the islets after conquering self-ruled democratic Taiwan, regarded by Beijing as its province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary, Mainichi Japan also reported.
Whenever their leaders are replaced, Tokyo, which has heavily depended on Washington for military protection, has always tried to receive confirmation from the United States that the Senkakus are covered by Article 5 of the 1960 Japan-US security treaty.
"We cannot let our guard down against China, given its apparent ambition to change the status quo by force," a Japanese government official said. "The nationalization gave us a cue to seriously reconsider our defense policy with a high sense of urgency."
The Senkakus are under the jurisdiction of Japan's southern island prefecture of Okinawa -- a geopolitically important region that still hosts the bulk of US bases in the country over 50 years after it was reverted to Japan in 1972 following US rule.