China in troubled waters with Japan: Rising tensions in the East China Sea


China in troubled waters

By Amrita Jash

The Asia-Pacific region is witnessing a strategic shift with the changing regional power dynamics. This shift is witnessed in the rise of China as a powerful actor with its ambitious foreign policy posture, while United States is perceived to experience a decline of power in its zone of influence. With its geography predominantly maritime and strategically being the most economically viable region, the Asia-Pacific has become the new battleground of competitive interests, thereby, posing a severe challenge to the security and stability of the region. One such strategic security challenge to the region’s stability is the rising tensions in the East China Sea. Here, China is involved in a severe maritime dispute with Japan over a few islets of rocks in the East China Sea, making it a potential hotspot of tensions in the Asia-Pacific region. This flaring tension over the sovereignty claims has de-stabilized the status-quo both regionally and globally. Hence, the Asia-Pacific seems to be in great crisis with the heightened security dilemma between China and Japan, where in their efforts of reaffirming their sovereign positions, the diplomatic stand-off is drifting in the direction of a military conflict.

The trouble in the waters is reflected in the two countries varied positions, where for China,  the continental shelf in the East China Sea, which ‘stretches from China’s coasts right up to Japan, should be regarded as the natural prolongation of the continental territory of China and therefore belongs to it’. While for Japan, the continental shelf should be divided along the median line between the baselines for measuring the territorial seas of the two countries. The core factor that makes East China Sea a security concern for Asia-Pacific is understood in the overlapping interests of the two East Asia nation-states. Whereby, the realist calculations of the unresolved and indisputable sovereignty claims over the islands, known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan, is further compounded with the crucial flashpoints of being the sea lanes of communication (SLOCs) and a giant energy reservoir of minerals, oil and natural gas, thereby, making it a core national interest for both China and Japan … Click here to read more