Sinosphere – Dispatches From China
China-Japan Dispute Over Islands Spreads to Cyberspace
By Kiki Zhao
January 1, 2015 2:51 am
The disputed islands in the East China Sea are called the Diaoyu by China and the Senkaku by Japan. Conflicting claims over the islands have exacerbated tensions between the two countries.
The disputed islands in the East China Sea are called the Diaoyu by China and the Senkaku by Japan. Conflicting claims over the islands have exacerbated tensions between the two countries.Credit Kyodo, via Reuters
In a new effort to bolster its claim to disputed islands in the East China Sea, the Chinese government has endowed the isles with a website under their Chinese name, http://www.diaoyudao.org.cn, for the Diaoyu Islands. Japan, which also claims sovereignty, calls them the Senkaku.
Next to the Chinese national flag, the words “Diaoyu Islands — China’s inherent territory” top the website’s home page. Below are photos of the uninhabited, Japanese-administered archipelago with islands identified by their Chinese names, the Chinese government’s statement as to why the islands are an integral part of China and a timeline reaching back to the 14th century with historical documents offered as proof of China’s claim. “The Diaoyu are inseparable parts of Chinese territory,” the website reads. “Whether from a historical perspective or a legal one, they are China’s inherent territory.”
The website, currently only in Chinese, was set up by the National Marine Data and Information Service, a department under the State Oceanic Administration. According to Xinhua, the state-run news agency, the website will eventually be available in other languages, including Japanese and English.
“This might be a response to Japan’s earlier publishing of its position and related documents about the islands,” said Zhou Weihong, a professor in Japanese studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University.
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs set up a website detailing Japan’s claim to the islands, along with supporting historical records, around the time Tokyo announced it would purchase the islands from a private owner in 2012, Mr. Zhou said. That website, which is available in a dozen languages, including Chinese, declares: “There is no doubt that the Senkaku Islands are clearly an inherent part of the territory of Japan, in light of historical facts and based upon international law.”
Liu Jiangyong, a professor of international relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing, praised the Chinese action. “Since China has a vast amount of historical references, it should, of course, display them on the Internet,” he said. “This will help people understand the historical truths.”
Relations between China and Japan have been tense for years, exacerbated by the conflicting claims over the islands. In November, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and President Xi Jinping of China met briefly at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting in Beijing. The two sides took softer tones in their statements, which noted that “different positions exist” on the disputed archipelago.
Still, in mid-December, two Chinese naval vessels were reported to have come within 44 miles of the islands, the closest approach since the dispute erupted in 2012. And on Tuesday, Japan said three Chinese Coast Guard vessels had entered its territorial waters near the islands.
A spokeswoman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hua Chunying, said on Tuesday that the movements of the Chinese naval vessels conformed to international law. As for Chinese Coast Guard vessels, Ms. Hua said that they were in fact patrolling Chinese territorial waters, in an “exercise of sovereignty according to the law.”
Since the Diaoyu website went online Tuesday, many observer comments have tended toward the cynical.
“But the actual control” of the islands “falls into others’ hands,” wrote one Sina Weibo user, Yunxi.
Another Weibo user, under the name RecoCool, posted, “Pretty cool website, but could we please unblock Twitter and Facebook, Google and Gmail first?”