Diaoyu Islands

Japanese press adopt tougher stance on Diaoyus row

Newspapers drop their temperate stand on the dispute, running reports on the "China threat"

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2012, 3:29am

After its restrained initial response to the territorial row between Beijing and Tokyo, the Japanese media has started to take a more aggressive tone with a series of reports warning about potential threats from China.

The latest editions of weekly news magazines are pulling no punches with pieces matching the Japanese military against the People's Liberation Army and calling on Japanese firms to move operations out of China amid the East China Sea islands dispute.

The tabloid Shukan Jitsuwa even published a report claiming that Japanese authorities were bracing for an outbreak of "food terrorism" tied to the 60 per cent of Japanese food imports that come from China.

The magazine quoted an unnamed security source as saying the Central Intelligence Agency in the United States had passed along information about "a fanatical right-wing Chinese organisation that is planning to pay some poor worker at a factory to poison food".

Such an incident strained relations between the two neighbours four years ago, when 10 Japanese required hospital treatment after eating frozen gyoza imported from China that had been deliberately laced with a pesticide.

Until now, Japan's free press has adopted a "softly, softly" approach when covering the flare-up over control over the Diaoyu, or Senkaku, islands, similar to Tokyo's low-key diplomatic effort to smooth relations with Beijing and Taipei, who each claim ownership of the islands.

Such coverage has been bemoaned by the Yomiuri newspaper, Asahi TV and others who worry China's state-run media has seized the advantage and is successfully pressing its case.

The China Daily went so far as to buy adverts in The New York Times and The Washington Post asserting Beijing's claim to the disputed island chain.

Even now, however, Japan's press reports appeared almost entirely directed at a domestic audience, with publications like Shukan Shincho carrying the outcomes of hypothetical military clashes between the two nations.

The magazine concluded that while China holds an advantage in numbers of aircraft and ships, Japanese technology is superior and the Japan Self-Defence Forces could fend off everything short of an all-out assault.

On other hand, China has been rapidly upgrading its military capabilities - introducing stealth fighters, early warning aircraft and its first aircraft carrier - and Japanese media have speculated Beijing may be eager for an armed showdown.

The response and role of the US military is also being discussed at length, given Washington has stated it considers the Diaoyus as Japanese territory covered by its mutual defence pact with Tokyo.

Several publications have urged Japanese firms to withdraw from China and relocate more production facilities to Southeast Asia.

The Shukan Asahi argues Japanese companies can cope without China. The 10 million Chinese employed by Japanese firms, however, would lose their jobs and likely take out their frustrations on Beijing.