Beijing may seek legal solution to Diaoyus row with Japan, analysts say
Analysts say that by setting boundaries around Diaoyus, China is laying the groundwork for taking Japan to international court over islands
The decision to announce formal boundaries around the Diaoyu Islands shows that Beijing may be considering taking Tokyo to an international court if their sovereignty fight continues to escalate, mainland analysts said.
That would signal a significant shift in approach by Beijing, which, at least until the territorial row flared up again this spring, has long advocated "setting aside disputes and seeking joint exploration" in the East China Sea.
Analysts said Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's decision to purchase three of the islands, which the Japanese call the Senkakus, from their private Japanese owner last week proved to Beijing that Tokyo would not give up its sovereignty claims.
By submitting "baseline" territorial boundaries to the United Nations, Beijing has taken the dispute to the international stage. Chinese leaders are hoping that the move may exert enough pressure to force Tokyo back into two-way talks with Beijing.
"Tokyo has ignored the fact that sovereignty over the islands is a dispute between Japan and China," said Lian Degui , a foreign-policy professor at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.
"By submitting to the UN, Beijing is forcing Tokyo to admit that the issue is a dispute, and should be resolved by negotiation with China," Lian said.
Professor Ji Zhiye , of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, cautioned that the submission did not, on its own, guarantee UN recognition of China's territorial rights. Japan might make a similar submission.
"China wants to resolve the disputes through bilateral negotiations, but that is quite unlikely given the existing circumstances," Ji said. "China may be willing to take the matter to the international court."
Others believed that Beijing was only making a gesture to coax Tokyo back to negotiating table and had no intention of going to an international court.
In the meantime, Professor Ruan Zongze of the China Institute of International Studies said, Beijing might now send more Chinese citizens to the islands, especially after a temporary fishing ban ends tomorrow.
"It is possible that fishermen will head to the islands and the Chinese authorities will not ban them from going," he said.
Beijing has been under pressure to take a tougher tack over the Diaoyus ever since Tokyo's nationalist mayor, Shintaro Ishihara, first floated plans to buy them in April.
However, Professor Feng Zhaokui , an expert on the Japanese economy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said conflict would lead to mutual harm for the two economies. He cited their 2010 spat that resulted in restricted Chinese exports of rare earth.
"We should not overestimate China's ability to bear the consequences of economic sanctions," Feng said. "On a short-term basis, Japan will bear more negative impact. But on a long-term basis, both countries will suffer."