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LinkAsia | Jan 25
Japan reached out to China this week in an attempt to resolve the ongoing dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. New Komeito party leader Natsuo ...
Fish and oil. These are two resources that Asian countries need to fuel their growing populations and economies. Well to the north of the Spratlys, in the East China Sea, China's in another island dispute, this time with Japan. Both countries claim tiny, uninhabited islands south of Okinawa. China calls them the Diaoyu Islands. And Japan calls them the Senkaku. But both countries are after the resources that are believed to lie below the surface.
Last week Japan's Prime Minister said that his government would be buying the islands from their owners, a Japanese family. That got Japan's social media chattering. Here's our contributor Toshi Maeda with more.
The Japanese government's move comes on the heels of a controversial announcement made by Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara in April to purchase the islands from private owners using public funds and donations. With Japan's central government now talking about buying the Senkaku, the debate is adding fuel to an already heated controversy with China.
Renowned Japanese journalist Soichiro Tahara argues:
"With the central government now saying it will purchase the Senkaku islands, Japan's taken on the first real diplomatic challenge since the end of World War II." Until now, he says, Japan only got into diplomatic issues with the backing of the United States, and wonders if Japan is really ready to go through on its own.
The Japanese government has consistently expressed that from its point of view, there has never been an ownership debate over the islands. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda reiterated this reasoning to support his argument that the point is not to cause a diplomatic crisis with China.
This user of Japanese social networking site Mixi wrote:
"Although in the end, the islands should be owned by the government for security reasons -- the city of Tokyo should buy the islands first," saying that he finds, "It's hard to understand why the Japanese government has suddenly decided to step in."
Public distrust in the government is echoed in various corners of the blogosphere. This blogger says many citizens are sensing that there is another side to the story, that there could even be a hidden agenda, such as deflecting public anger from various domestic problems.
Another big concern is what will happen to the money already collected by the prefecture of Tokyo through donations if the Japanese government takes matters in its own hands. Tokyo Prefecture's official website shows a whopping 1.3 billion yen, or 16 million US dollars, has been donated from over 90,000 people in support of the city's plan to purchase the islands.
The latest opinion polls in Japan show a majority of Japanese support Prime Minister Noda's plan to nationalize part of these islands. But with his approval rating falling below 30 percent, even that low figure could evaporate completely if Noda fails to follow through. For LinkAsia, I'm Toshi Maeda in Tokyo.