China's Okinawa claims touch a sore spot in Japan

China's Okinawa claims touch a sore spot in Japan

CHINA-JAPAN - The Japan-China relationship remains in deep freeze.

This is due mainly to the territorial spat over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islets. But, as a result of recent developments, it is Japan rather than China that is feeling particularly uncomfortable.

Bilateral ties nosedived further recently following new pilgrimages of Japanese Cabinet members to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's statement that "the definition of invasion has not yet been settled" (meaning that Japan's wartime behaviour in Asia did not necessarily constitute an "invasion") did not help either.

Such ultra-nationalistic manifestations not only added new fuel to the anger of Japan's neighbours but have also earned it some unusual complaints from Washington.

They also drew a diplomatic remark from Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who, during a recent visit to Tokyo, subtly reminded his hosts of the massacres committed in Singapore by the Japanese occupiers.

Tokyo sticks to its position that there is no territorial dispute with Beijing and, despite indications to the contrary, officially denies the existence of any agreement between the two parties to "shelve" the territorial issue until future generations find the wisdom to solve it.

Indifferent to Tokyo's intransigence on the territorial issue, Beijing has kept up the pressure, sending patrol ships to the vicinity of the disputed islets on a daily basis and mounting a massive international publicity campaign to discredit Japan's position.

Notably, China last month dealt a significant shock to the Japanese by casting doubt on what has long been thought to be an immutable fact: Japan's sovereignty over the Ryukyu islands (of which Okinawa is a part).

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