Thursday, 9 January 2014
Japanese jets intercept Chinese plane
On 7 January, Japanese fighter jets were scrambled to intercept a Chinese government plane flying towards the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The Y-12 propeller plane flew unannounced into Japan’s Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) approximately one hundred miles from the Islands, which China refers to as the Diaoyu Islands. This incident is the latest in a series of confrontations between China and Japan, both of whom seeking ownership of the uninhabited Islands in a bid to claim hegemony over the strategic, hydrocarbon-rich East China Sea.
Tuesday’s events follow what the Japanese view as China’s belligerent announcement of its new ADIZ back in November 2013, which led to the US, Japan’s main ally, flying two B52 bombers through the newly announced air space in protest at the move. The navies and air forces of the two Asian giants have also repeatedly confronted each other in the locale of the Islands since Japan nationalised them in 2012, with both premiers taking a tougher stand over foreign policy. International observers worry that, if these confrontations continue to increase in frequency and intensity, they could escalate to military engagements drawing in other world powers.
In an unusual diplomatic exchange between officials of the two countries, the Chinese Ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, wrote "If militarism is like the haunting Voldermort of Japan, the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo is a kind of horcrux, representing the darkest parts of that nation's soul." In response to the comments referencing Harry Potter’s arch nemesis, the Japanese Ambassador, Keiichi Hayashi, warned that his counterpart’s country risked becoming the “Lord Voldemort of East Asia”.
It is believed the eight uninhabited islands are located near potentially lucrative oil and gas reserves and strategic shipping lanes, as well as being situated in valuable fishing waters. The island's Exclusive Economic Zone would grant the controlling state sovereignty over these resources.
For further analysis on the claims by each side to these islands, please visit our border briefing page on the East China Sea.