Tensions over disputed islands threaten China-Japan celebrations
Beijing event to mark 40th anniversary of normalising relations with Tokyo in doubt as diplomatic tensions mount over island claims
Escalating tensions between China and Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea threaten to scupper celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the normalisation of Sino-Japanese ties later this month, with normal diplomatic and grass-roots exchanges between the two countries in near shutdown.
A group of Japanese politicians, including former Liberal Democratic Party secretary general Hiromu Nonaka, have called off a trip to Beijing to attend a state function on September 27 celebrating the anniversary.
Senior leaders from both countries were previously reported to be planning to attend the event in the Great Hall of the People. But analysts said the celebration was likely to be cancelled, given the two countries are locking horns over uninhabited islands known as the Diaoyus in China and the Senkakus in Japan.
A series of activities was planned earlier this year to mark the anniversary, with Premier Wen Jiabao calling the event "critical" in February and State Councillor Liu Yandong urging both countries to "utilise the celebration" to improve bilateral ties.
But the celebration looks all but impossible now, with mutual resentment getting stronger by the day in the wake of the Japanese government's purchase of three of the islands. Anti-Japan rallies are being held in major mainland cities and the list of cancelled official and grass-roots events and trips is getting longer.
Japanese media reported yesterday that the Japanese government had drawn up a series of plans to deal with anger on the mainland and in Taiwan.
Zhou Yongsheng , an expert in Japanese affairs at China Foreign Affairs University, said it was now "impossible to get the positive sentiments to hold such an event".
"It is very likely that the celebration will not be held as planned," Zhou said.
Ten Chinese generals issued a joint statement yesterday warning that the People's Liberation Army is "ready to take Japan on".
Deng Yuwen , an associate editor of the Central Party School's weekly Study Times, said yesterday that there was a chance of armed clashes after the Communist Party's 18th national congress, likely to be held next month, which will see a once-in-a-decade transition of power.
"Accidents might take place between China and Japan on some specific patrol or maritime law enforcement mission, triggering further frictions that are likely to escalate into military conflicts," Deng said.
The Japanese cabinet had thrashed out eight scenarios for potential conflict before completing the purchase of the islands, the Yomiuri Shimbum reported yesterday. The most serious option was to permanently station self-defence forces there, but the cabinet eventually agreed to do nothing on the islands for the time being.
Meanwhile, internet users in Shanghai called for a mass protest on Tuesday to commemorate the Mukden Incident, an event staged by Japan as a pretext for invading north China in 1931.
Additional reporting by Minnie Chan