Chinese media yesterday warned Japan it risked intensified reprisals over a sea dispute and claimed that many back military force to settle a long feud over islands between Asia’s two biggest economies.
China’s government on Sunday suspended high-level exchanges and threatened more steps after a Japanese court extended to Sept. 29 the detention of Zhan Qixiong (詹其雄), whose fishing boat early this month collided with two Japanese coast guard ships near islets claimed by both sides.
“China should have a set of plans in place to further sanction Japan, fighting a diplomatic battle with Japan of successive retaliation,” said an editorial in the Global Times, a popular tabloid that focuses on international news.
The newspaper also ran an online poll that it said showed 96 percent of respondents backed armed force to settle the dispute over the islets, called Diaoyutai (釣魚台) by China and Senkaku by Japan.
“There must be a war between China and Japan. China must cleanse its past shame,” one comment on the poll on the newspaper’s Web site said.
Though emotions are running high in China over the issue, analysts say there are no signs of it turning into a military conflict.
However, the angry rhetoric, including calls for a boycott of Japanese goods, does mark a setback for efforts by both sides to ease distrust over wartime memories and each other’s militaries and rival claims in the East China Sea.
China’s national youth association has postponed a plan to host 1,000 Japanese youths in Shanghai this week, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.
“The worst situation could be a worsening of political ties, such as canceled meetings between top leaders. But I do not think there will be a direct impact on bilateral trade. The two economies are too closely connected,” said Chen Qi, a professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing who studies regional relations.
“I think it will be more or less a war of words, and everything will remain under control,” Chen said.
Bilateral trade reached ¥12.6 trillion (US$146.8 billion) in the first half, a jump of 34.5 percent over the same time last year, according to Japanese statistics.
On Sunday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu (馬朝旭) repeated his government’s demand that Japan immediately release Zhan and said Tokyo would face greater pressure if it did not. Japan urged China to stay calm over the issue.
China has already called off meetings with Japanese officials, including planned talks over disputed gas fields in the East China Sea. More snubs may follow.