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.
Beijing advises nationals living in Japan to register with embassy in Tokyo
China's declaration of an air defence zone in the East China Sea has renewed attention on a notice from its embassy in Tokyo advising all its citizens in Japan to voluntarily register with its consular section.
The registration form was uploaded onto the diplomatic mission's homepage early this month. But it attracted widespread attention in mainland media over the weekend after China announced on Saturday it was setting up an "air defence identification zone" in the East China Sea, which covers the disputed Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japanese.
The embassy called on all Chinese living in Japan to register "to facilitate consular assistance" in case of "a major unexpected emergency", according to a statement on its website. Chinese living in Japan were asked to submit contact details of next of kin in Japan and China.
The flight zone, which overlaps roughly half of Japanese airspace claims, requires all aircraft crossing it to report to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the nation's civil aviation administration.
China launched its first patrol on Saturday, while Japan scrambled two fighter jets to intercept two Chinese aircraft. The US and South Korea have expressed concerns over the zone.
Dr Stephen Nagy, assistant professor of Japanese Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the call for registration was not a genuine effort to account for Japan's Chinese population, but rather a covert show of force.
Nagy said according to Japanese census data, more than 600,000 people of Chinese descent live in Japan, many of them in major cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe and Yokohama.
"Hundreds of thousands Chinese live, study and work in Japan," Nagy said. "This is more of a tactical gesture by the Chinese government to put pressure on Japan."
Anti-Japanese demonstrations over the Diaoyu dispute peaked in the mainland in September last year, following news that the Japanese government had bought the islands from the family said to own them.