Chinese Patrol Ships Arrive in Diaoyu Waters

Two Chinese surveillance ships entered waters near the disputed Diaoyu Islands this morning, according to the Japanese Coast Guard, in what Chinese state media has called a “rights defense” patrol. From Reuters:

“In recent days, Japan has constantly provoked incidents concerning the Diaoyu islands issue, gravely violating China’s territorial sovereignty,” China’s Xinhua news agency said.

The ship patrols were intended to exercise China’s “administrative jurisdiction” over the islands, it said.

“Following the relevant laws of the People’s Republic of China, (the ships) again carried out a regular rights defense patrol in our territorial waters around the Diaoyu islands.”

The Japanese Coast Guard ordered the Chinese ships to move out of the area, but received no response, an official said.

Tensions between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands, known in Japan as the Senkaku Islands, spiked earlier this month when Japan’s central government agreed to purchase three of the islets from their private Japanese owners. A string of anti-Japanese demonstrations ensued across China, even turning violent as angry protesters targeted Japanese-owned businesses and products. In one incident, a mob beat a Chinese man so badly for driving a Japanese car that he is now paralyzed. From The Wall Street Journal:

The beating took place on the afternoon of Sept. 15 in the central Chinese city of Xi’an in Shaanxi province. Mr. Li, his wife, one of his son’s and the son’s fiancée, were on their way back from a shopping trip when Mr. Li’s white Toyota Cor SCT.LB -10.73%olla was set upon by an agitated anti-Japanese mob brandishing sticks, bricks and steel implements, according to the Beijing Youth Daily.

Mr. Li’s wife urged the demonstrators not to damage the vehicle. “It was wrong of us to buy a Japanese car. We won’t buy one ever again, OK?” she was reported as saying by Beijing Youth Daily.

But the gang beat Mr. Li anyway, striking him on the head with a steel shackle and causing him to lose consciousness. Later, he was rushed to hospital where he was treated for open brain injury and then moved to an intensive care unit. He remained there until he regained consciousness three days later.

Mr. Li can now move the left-hand side of his body but the right side continues to be partially paralyzed.

The incident has evoked reflection among Chinese netizens and was the top story on Sina Weibo on Friday, according to the Wall Street Journal report. On the Japanese side, hundreds of people rallied peacefully against China in downtown Tokyo on Saturday, and the government has continued to urge the Chinese government to keep its citizens safe. The Japan Skating Federation then warned on Sunday that its skaters would pull out of next month’s Cup of China in Shanghai in the absence of safety guarantees.

Meanwhile, Chinese state media has continued to convey the government’s hard stance on the crisis, with the People’s Daily urging Japan on Sunday to “repent” for its infringement on China’s territorial sovereignty. Also on Sunday, China postponed events scheduled for later this week to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two sides. From The China Daily:

Two associations – entrusted by the government to organize events to mark the anniversary – cited Japan’s attitude over the Diaoyu Islands as the reason for the postponement.

“Considering the current situation”, events to commemorate the normalization of relations between the two nations will be “adjusted to an appropriate time”, said a statement by the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and the China-Japan Friendship Association.

Events were scheduled to take place on Thursday in Beijing to mark the signing of a joint statement between China and Japan on Sept 29, 1972.

But “the atmosphere has been ruined” due to Japan’s “buying” of the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea earlier this month, the statement said.

What gives? With neither side indicating any willingness to negotiate a resolution of the dispute, and with Taiwan also laying claim to the islets, Mark McDonald of the International Herald Tribune takes a stab at a settlement proposal:

In the face of deep emotions and official intransigence, it seems unlikely that Beijing, Tokyo and Taipei might agree to a radically simple notion: All three nations would stand down and renounce their claims, thereby settling things. Nobody would win, so nobody would lose.

It would require a bold new kind of diplomacy, but the Senkaku/Diaoyu rocks could be established as a kind of “international zone” surrounded, say, by a 12-mile cordon sanitaire. The islets would belong to no specific nation, much like the legal status of the Moon. No fishing or tourist boats would be allowed to encroach. No military drilling, no oil drilling. And in the spirit of a negotiated settlement, the currently unmanned lighthouse on Uotsuri, the principal islet, could be occupied by a trilateral rotation of keepers.