When the ninth Beijing-Tokyo Forum was held in the Chinese capital late last month, the agreements were hardly groundbreaking. A consensus document was released at the end of the event which began with the statement: “We agree on the following: China and Japan are geographically close.” That’s probably about the best that can be expected in a week in which both sides have ratcheted up tensions. The Chinese foreign ministry has accused the Japanese government of “repeatedly making provocative remarks”; while Tokyo scrambled its jet fighters when a Chinese military aircraft flew near Okinawa. When Japan said it would consider shooting down drones that flew over the disputed islands in the East China Sea, Beijing responded that this would be “an act of war”.
As WiC has reported before (see issue 179) the dispute over the islands’ sovereignty is more likely to fester than go away. In a further sign that things are not improving, the Global Times website ran a particularly belligerent (and long) headline this week: “There is nothing to talk about between China and Japan now. Prepare for the worst and military conflict.”
Tokyo has grown increasingly concerned by shows of Chinese military might too. The most recent occurred when Xinhua released – for the first time –a series of photographs showing China’s nuclear submarines on patrol. The official news agency did little to calm Japanese nerves. It said the Xia-class vessels would “gallop to the depths of the ocean, serving as mysterious forces igniting the sound of thunder in the deep sea” and “be an assassin’s mace that would make adversaries tremble”.
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