China and Japan: What's going on?
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It is a well-known fact in history that the most important events do not always garner the attention they deserve at the time that they occur. Over the last few weeks we’ve seen riots throughout the Muslim world, dynamic events which have shocked the international community at large into attention. But elsewhere in the East, even more weighty conflicts are taking place- conflicts which will have a far greater effect on the rest of the world. If you haven’t had your eye on the Sino-Japanese conflict, now is the time to catch up. The conflict is essentially one over property rights to the Diaoyu (in Chinese) or Senkaku (in Japanese) islands, an archipelago of five islands and three rocks south of Japan and east of mainland China. The islands themselves are not hugely attractive; they’re basically lumps of rock in the sea, totalling no more than seven square kilometres of land. The largest islands support limited wildlife: albatross colonies, various insects, and a rare indigenous species of mole called the Senkaku. It is the surrounding ocean that really interests the two countries. In 1968 it was discovered that there may well be submerged oil reserves to be had, and this has sparked debate over who these uninhabitable islands truly belong to. This year the debate seems to be coming to a head. Japan and the People’s Republic of China, supported by the Republic of China (Taiwan), simply cannot agree on who has the right to the islands. They both have their own explanations, sometimes going all the way back to the 16th century - but suffice it to say, their stories don’t match. The Japanese government tried to make things a bit simpler earlier this year by attempting to buy the islands from their private Japanese owner, a deal which was sealed this month. The dispute has only been escalated by this move.
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