As popular outrage continued to swirl in China over Japan's decision to make the disputed Senkaku Islands state property, anti-Japanese demonstrators took to the streets to mark the 81st anniversary of an incident that paved the way for the Japanese invasion and occupation of Manchuria.
The "day of national humiliation" for China occurred Sept. 18, 1931. Chinese refer to it as the Liutiaohu Incident.
Because of the nature of this anniversary, there were concerns that the violence seen in recent days could escalate.
But while some demonstrators threw rocks and took other actions, Chinese law enforcement authorities were on high alert. This averted the sort of mob violence of last weekend that targeted Japanese shops and factories.
The authorities are now cracking down harder on out-of-control protesters, having made arrests around the nation since last weekend. They are also turning to the media to publicly condemn acts of violence.
Beijing should take this as the cue for bringing the situation under control.
"Aiguo wuzui" is a Chinese expression that translates literally as "patriotism is no crime." This has come to serve as an excuse for condoning any action taken in the name of patriotism. But what happened last weekend were nothing more than violent acts of destruction, looting and arson. Under no circumstances can they ever be justified.
There is some indication that Beijing anticipated--and accepted--that some anti-Japanese demonstrators would turn violent.
The mob mentality that prevailed has not only greatly hurt China's image, but it could also lead to the public venting its frustration on Beijing for social disparities and other problems at home.
In the meantime, Chinese patrol vessels and fishery inspection boats have been showing up in waters near the Senkaku Islands, with some repeatedly entering Japanese waters. Some sources claim that a huge flotilla of Chinese fishing boats could be heading this way.
A senior officer of the naval patrol unit told Xinhua news agency that he had made thorough preparations and formed a careful deployment plan, strictly in keeping with Beijing's policy. The remarks suggest that the entire nation is set to forcibly change the Senkaku situation.
The Japan Coast Guard is on high alert, but a clash could occur, even if only by accident. This is extremely dangerous.
We demand that China refrain from any further acts of provocation.
Beijing has told Tokyo to "repent its mistakes and return to the negotiating table to settle the (Senkaku) dispute." But China recently rejected Japan's plan to send a delegation of Diet members to China, effectively denying Japan a chance to resume dialogue.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who is touring China and Japan, stressed at a news conference in Tokyo, "It is in everyone's interest for Japan and China to maintain good relations and find a way to avoid further escalation."
We could not agree more.
Although the Japanese government's position is that there is no territorial dispute, surely there must be steps that both Japan and China can take to ease this unfruitful conflict.
Both countries have many areas of common interest that should prove mutually beneficial. The ball is in China's court now to create an environment conducive to candid talks.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 19
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