Land disputes need logical answers

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Land disputes need logical answers

The escalating tension between Asia’s two largest economies over territorial disputes has reached an alarming level and is raising concerns about public safety, regional security and the global economy. The largest-ever anti-Japan demonstrations erupted across major cities in China over the weekend, with rowdy Chinese protesters violently attacking Japanese missions, business buildings and factories.

The three East Asian majors - Korea, China and Japan - are engulfed in heated and bitter disputes over ownership of uninhabited islets in waters they share that bear still-sensitive scars from Japan’s wartime and imperialistic excess.

Tensions between China and Japan turned violent after Japan last week announced it would purchase and nationalize the islands, known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese. The move immediately prompted Beijing to send patrol ships to the waters to assert its sovereignty. Tokyo explained the purchase was necessary to prevent the islands from falling into the hands of an ultra right-wing Japanese politician who vowed to buy them from private owners.

The Chinese responded angrily and declared Diaoyu and adjacent waters a maritime base and stationed six naval vessels in the area. If Japan matches with its own military presence, the two countries may be locked into a physical clash on the sea.

Some nationalists in China are stoking anti-Japanese sentiment as revenge for Japan’s war brutalities even though China is now ahead economically. Japan more or less sparked the regional conflict by dillydallying on past issues and exploiting territorial claims for political purposes. China also is trying to direct public fury toward the Japanese to deflect complaints about leaders during its once-in-a-decade power transition.

The strife between the world’s second- and third-largest economies, our closest neighbors, could potentially jeopardize the peace and stability of our region. Japan is at the same time waging a similar campaign against our own territory of Dokdo. The angry Japanese could mimic the Chinese and threaten us with similar violent means.

We need to brace ourselves for provocations. But it is more important that governments and people in East Asia work to control emotions and rely on logic when making important decisions about international disputes. The governments must regain their better senses as soon as possible. It is nonsense to go to a war over a group of uninhabited volcanic rocks.
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