The Diaoyu Islands are a group of uninhabited islands located roughly due east of mainland China, northeast of Taiwan, west of Okinawa Island, and north of the southwestern end of the Ryukyu Islands. They are currently controlled by Japan, which calls them Senkaku Islands. Both China and Taiwan claim sovereignty over the islands.
Artwork for toy Japanese warship not an ideal model of diplomacy
Julian Ryall in Tokyo and Teddy Ng
A scale model of a Japanese warship has become a sold-out success, apparently thanks to controversy over box artwork that appears to show it steaming past a sinking Chinese aircraft carrier.
The 1/700th scale model of the helicopter carrier Hyuga, made by the Aoshima Bunka Kyoza model company, is being sold as a special edition titled "Operation Senkaku Hyuga", a reference to disputed islands that are known as the Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyus in China.
Since reports emerged this month about the controversial marketing gimmicks, the model has been sold out on many mail order websites in Japan.
The front of the box shows the warship with the contested islands on the horizon and an aircraft carrier that suspiciously resembles the Chinese carrier Liaoning spewing fire and smoke as it sinks in the background.
Released by Shizuoka-based Aoshima Bunka in April, the plastic kit sells for 3,020 yen (HK$235).
A spokesman for the company declined to comment on the design of the box or the title of the model.
The designer used a lot of artistic licence with the image on the box as it also portrays some Osprey transport aircraft approaching the Hyuga.
The first of the vertical take-off and landing aircraft only completed a test landing on the deck of the warship in joint exercises with the US Marines in California in mid-June, but Japan does not as yet operate Ospreys.
But Japan is considering buying the US aircraft.
The Defence Ministry has been impressed by its revolutionary tilt-rotors, which give it the speed and payload of a conventional fixed-wing aircraft, but also enable it to land like a helicopter when deployed vertically.
That would make it the perfect aircraft for deploying Japanese troops should there be a threat to Japan's control of the disputed islands.
The model and its artwork have not met with universal acclaim at home.
In a segment of a television programme addressing recent joint US-Japan exercises, the presenters pored over one of Aoshima Bunka's models of the helicopter carrier.
Former defence minister and the current secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party Shigeru Ishiba said that while it was worth looking into the possibility of buying Ospreys "the scenario being presented here [on the box] is exactly what we are trying to avoid," he said.
Chinese internet users have criticised Japan over the toy, accusing it of hyping up a war mentality. "The ambition of Japan is to start a war with Japan," said one mainland internet user in his microblog account.
Another microblog user said: "Maybe someone from China should make some comics showing how Japan is defeated."
But some other microblog users saw the box artwork as a warning for China. "It is possible that the Chinese aircraft carrier be defeated by Japan. We have just started to modernise our army, but Japan has done it for so many years," one post said.
Another post said: "We should all remember how China was defeated by Japan long time ago."