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China trawling for trouble

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COMMENTS

17 September 2010 09:26

Andy Forrest is a Lowy Institute intern. He recently completed his PhD thesis on Chinese perceptions of Japan's security strategy.

Last week's collision between a Chinese fishing trawler and a Japanese patrol boat has triggered a new round of diplomatic jousting between China and Japan. 

This incident has exposed telling tensions between the two countries. Unlike other recent sea spats between China and Japan, Tokyo swiftly took a stand this time round by boarding the Chinese fishing vessel and arresting its captain. Knowing, as Tokyo must have, that Beijing would not react well to the idea of a Chinese captain being prosecuted under Japanese law, this incident is perhaps the clearest signal yet of the DPJ Government's willingness to gin itself up to push back against China's assertiveness – a stance anticipated earlier.

Nobody is certain where this will lead. It is unclear how far both powers are willing to go together to preserve a stable Asian maritime security order.

For China's part, the fact that CCP officials have not gone out of their way to publicly play down insinuations of official involvement in this and other recent East Asian maritime scuffles suggests, for now, they aren't willing to go far enough. This is a shame, given that some in Beijing and Tokyo are now just beginning to think seriously about setting up leadership hotlines to help manage their bilateral security concerns.

Photo by Flickr user Dude Crush, used under a Creative Commons license.

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