Are Taiwanese and Japanese the same thing

China and Japan : Five islands, three rocks - one source of conflict

In the port of the southern Japanese island of Ishigaki, the deadly danger rests carelessly on the pier. A fisherwoman has pulled a fugu out of the pool and placed it on the floor next to her chair. In Japan, the puffer fish may only be prepared by specialists because the poison tetrodotoxin it contains kills an average of five Japanese per year. “Yes, it's a fugu,” confirms the angler, gives a short laugh and looks back at her fishing rod in the harbor basin.

Seven patrol ships and three patrol boats of the Japanese Coast Guard anchored there on this January morning. At a subtropical 22 degrees Celsius in January, they act like a reminder for holidaymakers that apart from the fugu northwest of the harbor basin, it can also be very threatening.

170 kilometers from Ishigaki there are five islands and three rocks that could not only pose great threats to peace in the region. They could even start a war between the superpowers China and Japan's protecting power USA. The archipelago is called Senkaku by the Japanese and Diaoyu by the Chinese. Both countries and Taiwan claim it and the surrounding waters for themselves.

It's about three rocky unattractive islands

The rocky islands, which are currently only inhabited by wild goats, are not particularly attractive. The gas and oil deposits in their vicinity are likely to be more attractive. China has already started producing gas with 16 drilling platforms. Japan recently protested against this practice again in Beijing.

However, some observers suspect that China's main concern in the conflict is to gain control of the Miyako Strait so that it can more easily reach the open Pacific with its military fleet and fishing boats.

Unresolved colonial times

The territorial dispute is simmering unresolved. When Japan backed up its claim to the islands in 2012 by buying them to a private individual, government-approved anti-Japanese demonstrations broke out in China. Japanese cars were also set on fire.

The territorial dispute takes place against the background of Japan's largely unresolved colonial past in China and the growing rivalry between the regional power Japan and the new world power China. Beijing has made massive armaments, with the military budget growing by 740 percent from 1992 to 2017. According to the latest report by the peace research institute Sipri, the world's second largest economy spent an estimated 228 billion US dollars on the military in 2017. Only the US invested more, at $ 610 billion.

Construction of artificial islands

The Chinese Communist Party always emphasizes "peaceful ascent". But at the beginning of the year, state and party leader Xi Jinping bluntly threatened to use force to enforce China's claim to reunification with Taiwan, which the Communist Party sees as a breakaway province. China also worries its neighbors with its claim to 90 percent of the South China Sea.

With the construction of artificial islands and their progressive militarization, Beijing is presenting the neighboring countries of Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan with a fait accompli. And it challenges the previous Pacific hegemonic power, the USA. Washington repeatedly sends military ships through the China-claimed zone in the South China Sea to ensure freedom of navigation.

If you add the possible threat posed by North Korean nuclear missiles, the security situation in East Asia is one of the most difficult in the world. That is also one of the reasons why many participants in the Munich Security Conference came from Asia.

Militarized region

Anyone who lands at Naha Airport in Okinawa is shown the militarization of the region in front of their eyes and ears. After a passenger aircraft from the Japanese airline JAL, two F15 fighter jets from the Japanese air self-defense forces roar over the runway, followed by another ANA passenger aircraft.

The surveillance aircraft of the Japanese maritime self-defense forces also use the airport, which will soon have a second runway. Naha Airport is a testament to Okinawa's economic growth and military importance. From here, Japan monitors the air and sea.

Since 2012, confrontations at sea between the two countries have also increased sharply. At one point, the Japanese Coast Guard had to stop boats from Hong Kong activists on their way to the islands. Even in the air, where the two countries have introduced overlapping no-fly zones, the military aircraft are getting closer.

Japan does not officially see China as a threat

According to the Japanese Ministry of Defense, the number of air missions due to Chinese military aircraft in Japanese airspace rose sharply from 2012 to 2016. It then fell, which could also reflect the recent somewhat improved political relations between the two countries.

Chinese military ships are also increasingly using routes through the Japanese chain of islands to get to the open Pacific. In December 2016, the Chinese aircraft carrier "Liaoning" drove for the first time between Okinawa and Miyako Island; in April 2018, aircraft that should have taken off from the "Liaoning" were spotted for the first time in Japanese airspace.

Despite the armament and the increase in military encounters, Japan does not regard its neighbors as a threat according to the official diplomatic reading. Instead, China is raising "major national security concerns".

Japanese armament

Japan responded to the rise of China and North Korea's nuclear armament with a new program of national defense guidelines, published in late 2018. Among other things, this provides for the conversion of two Izumo-class helicopter carriers into two aircraft carriers. Military capabilities in cyberspace, space travel and electronic warfare are also to be expanded.

"The most important point, however, is the change in the Japanese security situation from reactive to proactive," analyzes Leo Lin of the Yokosuka Council think tank in the magazine "The Diplomat". Apparently in response to the US isolationist tendencies, Japan wants to strengthen its own military capabilities and reduce its dependence on the US. Without questioning them. Because there are limits to the Japanese armament.

Article nine of the 1946 Constitution prescribed strict pacifism in the country after the experience of World War II and forbade military activities and the maintenance of armed forces. Later, a court ruling allowed self-defense forces to be set up to provide a minimum level of defense against direct attack.

In 2014, the right-wing conservative government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expanded the interpretation of the constitution to include the right to collective self-defense. Since then, Japan has also been allowed to stand by an ally. Again and again the Abe government envisions a constitutional amendment that would allow an official formation of an army - but for this it needs a three-quarters majority in the House of Commons. It's not in sight.

Formation dance at sea

Ishigaki Island is about 2,000 kilometers away from Japan's political headquarters, Tokyo, but in terms of security policy it is in the center. In the port, the Japanese Rear Admiral Hiroyasu Hanai reports that he encountered four Chinese coast guard ships in the waters off the Senkaku Islands the day before.

He gestures to describe the encounter on the sea, which is almost ritualized. The Chinese ships warn the Japanese by loudspeaker announcements and neon signs not to enter the water and announce China's territorial claims. The Japanese Coast Guard does the same, only insists on its own claims. It works like a formation dance at sea, but it is not harmless. Then the ships turn off. Still.

The trip took place at the invitation of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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