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Special> Diaoyu Islands Dispute> Opinion
UPDATED: August 20, 2012
Release Diaoyu Islands Activists a Wise Move

Tokyo has made a wise move by releasing all 14 Chinese captured Wednesday on and off the Diaoyu Islands, easing the anguish of millions of Chinese, who, along with the activists, are determined to safeguard China's sovereign rights.

The dispute over the islands will never be settled unless the Japanese Government drops its "island-purchasing" farce.

Tokyo should realize that heading down the path of "nationalizing" the islands is a dangerous move and it needs to rein in right-wing politicians, such as Tokyo mayor Shintaro Ishihara, who has trumpeted "buying the islands."

To properly solve the issue of the Diaoyu Islands, the Japanese government should reflect from three perspectives.

Firstly, the Japanese government should reflect on its conception of history. The Diaoyu Islands and adjacent islets have belonged to China since ancient times, but were stolen by Japan, which took advantage of the embattled Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) during the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-1895.

The islands, occupied by Japan until its defeat at the end of World War II in 1945, are a manifestation of Japan's half-century-long aggression against China.

Unfortunately, the islands were not returned to their rightful owner but were handed to Japan again in 1972 after the United States ended its "administering" of the islands, which China has never recognized.

From the view of the Chinese people, making blatant claims over the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands underlines that Japan has never sincerely admitted its past sins of aggression and still clings to the notion of one day retracing its past error of militarism.

Secondly, Tokyo needs to accept its responsibility for single-handedly causing the recent escalation of tension over the islands.

The "island buying" farce was originally a bid by nationalists such as Ishihara to gain political leverage. But the Japanese government not only failed to restrain such actions in the interests of protecting Sino-Japanese relations, it announced it would "nationalize" the islands in July and even said it would consider deploying its Self-Defense Force.

The statement immediately triggered anger among the Chinese.

Meanwhile, an article in the Weekly Standard, a U.S. political magazine, said Japan's Government was being pushed in a more aggressive direction.

Asahi Shimbun, a major Japanese newspaper, stressed in an editorial on July 19 that Japanese defense policies were based on article nine of the constitution, which stated that "the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes."

The editorial also said Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda had been "thoughtless" and put Japan "in a very dangerous situation" with his initiatives to boost military ties with the United States against the backdrop of flaring tensions between Tokyo and Beijing.

Moreover, how Japan can get along with neighboring Asian countries in the 21st century is worth pondering on.

Japan is proud of being considered one of the "Western countries," but its geographical, cultural and racial traits determine it belongs to Asia.

Its disrespect and insulting moves towards neighboring nations have brewed disaster, and normalization of China-Japan relations 40 years ago only took place after its post-war reflection.

Now the country obviously needs to return to that reflection and reconsider how it can get along with Asian countries.

It's wrong and risky to continue playing with the Diaoyu Islands by naively relying on strengthening its military alliance with the United States and continuing to indulge the unreasonable clamor of right-wing forces.

The Japanese government's quick release of the illegally captured Chinese activists is a wise move to avoid the deterioration of bilateral relations.

Nevertheless, whether the Japanese government will respect the historical facts and terminate the absurd "buying the islands" farce as soon as possible is of vital importance to easing the tension over the Diaoyu Islands and maintaining the hard-won relationship between Japan and China.

(Xinhua News Agency August 17, 2012)

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