Exercises ‘legitimate’, economics in play
Japanese TV channel Fuji TV first reported that Chinese vessels were maneuvering towards the disputed islands on Tuesday, and that Japanese military surveillance aircraft had been dispatched to monitor them, citing government sources. In response, China’s Ministry of Defense issued a statement stating the "Chinese navy vessels' routine training and navigation in the waters in question is justified and legitimate."
If the Chinese ships attempt to breach Japanese-controlled waters, it would inflame a situation which is unstable at best. The past month has seen violent anti-Japan demonstrations across China, while several Japanese companies and manufacturers have hoisted anchor, closing their stores and factories on the mainland in response.
Dr. Joseph Gerson, an expert in Asia-Pacific affairs and programs director at the American Friends Service Committee, told RT that although the islands remain a dangerous flashpoint for the two nations, the importance of China-Japan economic ties may outweigh the consequences of full-scale war.
“They’re both competitors and partners in trade,” he said. “During the last crisis over these islands, the Chinese, at least for a period of time, embargoed the sale and trade of rare earth, which is essential to Japan’s high-tech economy. At the same time, China needs Japanese investment, so a war would cost both, and I think that’s one reason why it didn’t happen,” Gerson said.
Gerson added that while the situation had calmed somewhat after a short period on the brink of crisis, it could still “flare up at any time that it meets the interest of political leaders seeking to manipulate the situation.”