Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao raised the stakes in an escalating dispute with Japan (NYT) by threatening retaliation unless Tokyo immediately released the captain of a Chinese fishing boat detained in disputed waters. The comments, made to members of the Chinese-American community in New York, were the first by a senior Chinese official on the issue. The captain and crew were seized earlier this month by Japanese naval vessels claiming the boat rammed them near several uninhabited islands controlled by Japan. China announced Tuesday Wen would likely not meet Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan when both leaders attend the UN development conference. Earlier this week, China suspended many of the two countries' diplomatic ties (FT) and exchanges. The row threatens to exacerbate lingering distrust between the world's second- and third-largest economies, which stems from territorial disputes, residual Chinese anger over Japanese occupation in World War II, and China's growing regional power. Japan's top government spokesman called for high-level bilateral talks (Xinhua) to ease the tensions Wednesday.
In the Japan Times, Ralph Cossa says "an increasingly assertive China is unwittingly reinforcing America's role in Asia as the implicit guarantor of security and stability."
On RealClearWorld, Todd Crowell says Japan is "awakening to the fact that its extreme southern flank is basically undefended and open to invasion" and is redeploying troops to its west and south, which may accelerate as Beijing becomes more aggressive across the entire South China, East China, and Yellow Seas.
On CFR's Asia Unbound blog, Sheila Smith says although it seems unlikely Beijing would want to unravel its hard diplomatic work to stabilize Sino-Japanese relations, the incident could be another effort to "push the envelope in contesting the status quo in maritime Asia."
September 22, 2010View this newsletter as a web page on CFR's website.