Hong Kong, June 23 (ANI): The dispute between China and Japan is brewing in the East China Sea over the chain of Senkaku/ Diaoyu islands which may trigger new political tension in Asia over the years.
China shares its borders with 14 countries but it is in loggerhead with most nations over territories including islands.
Tensions over the rocky chain, 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometres) southwest of Tokyo, have simmered for years, and with claims over them dating back hundreds of years, neither Japan nor China is likely to back down over territory considered a national birthright in both capitals, CNN reported.
Both Tokyo and Beijing claim the uninhabited islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China, as their own, but Japan has administered them since 1972.
But since mid-April, Japan has spotted 67 Chinese government ships near the waters of the islands. If Japan retaliates, it could trigger a conflict that will even bring the United States on to the table as Washington is obligated to defend Tokyo, due to a mutual defence treaty signed between the two countries, in case any foreign power attacks the Japanese territory.
Last week's announcement from the Japanese coastguard that Chinese government ships had been spotted in the waters close to Senakaku/Diaoyu Islands has further heightened fears of a possible confrontation.
In response to the increased Chinese presence, Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, reasserted Tokyo's resolve at a news conference last Wednesday.
"The Senkaku Islands are under our control and are unquestionably our territory historically and under international law. It is extremely serious that these activities continue. We will respond to the Chinese side firmly and calmly," Suga said.
In a statement cited by CNN on Friday, China's Foreign Ministry echoed that the Japanese government's sentiments, from the reverse perspective.
"The Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands are an inherent part of China's territory, and it is our inherent right to carry out patrols and law enforcement activities in these waters," the statement read.
Similar comments were recently published in China's state-run Global Times newspaper. The report, titled "Japanese conservatives disrupt recovering China-Japan ties by hyping Diaoyu Islands dispute," criticised attempts underway in Japan's Okinawa prefecture to change the administration of the islands, noting it could do serious harm to Japan-China relations.
Japan formally recognised the chain of islands as part of the Japanese sovereign territory in 1895. A group of settlers manufactured dried fish and collected feathers, with the islands having more than 200 inhabitants at one point, according to Japan's Foreign Ministry.
Japan then sold the islands in 1932 to descendants of the original settlers, but the factory failed around 1940 and the islands were eventually deserted. The Japanese surrender at the end of World War II in 1945 only served to further cloud the issue.
The islands were administered by the US occupation force after the war. But in 1972, Washington returned them to Japan as part of its withdrawal from Okinawa.
Meanwhile, self-governing Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a Chinese province, also claims ownership of the chain.
The defence of the Senkaku/Diaoyus has been a priority for Japan even in the past few years as Tokyo has established new military bases nearby to protect the islands. The Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) has also been building up its marines and drilling them on island warfare.
Although the islands are uninhabited, there are economic interests involved, according to the CFR.
The islands have potential oil and natural gas reserves, are near prominent shipping routes, and are surrounded by rich fishing areas.
However, China's current push for its claims in the Indo-Pacific, apart from the billion dollars worth Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) could trigger a possible clash in near future. (ANI)