TOKYO (NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO) — Tensions erupted last week between China and Japan over control of a small set of islands that lie 100 miles north of Taiwan. Anti-Japanese protests erupted in many major Chinese cities, including at the Japanese embassy in Beijing. Occupied by Japan since the end of the Second World War, the island chain is believed to contain valuable deposits of minerals, specifically rare earth minerals deemed strategic to national security by many nations.
The issue of possession of the islands was placed on the political back-burner for many decades. Former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping advised both sides to build up their domestic economies and trade partnership before dealing with the potentially explosive issue.
The territorial dispute is the latest in a series of regional disputes in recent months. In July, the Chinese government announced it would send a military detachment to a group of small islands of the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea. China and the Philippines also have a long running dispute over the Parcel Islands and Spratly Islands. Japan has a series of ongoing territorial disputes with Korea and Russia over the Dokdo islands and Kurile Islands, respectively.
Comment: The aggressiveness of Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea have been increasing in the last 12 months. Political disputes and protests on all sides are not new, nor are they unique, as many of these territorial disputes are decades old. However, the expansion of Chinese territorial claims is likely due to an increased likelihood of each claim containing valuable mineral deposits.