LINDA WERTHEIMER, Host:
China and Japan are locked in a major war of words. It involves the arrest of a Chinese fisherman and a dispute over islands in the East China Sea. But it's become much more than that. And tensions between the two countries have increased dramatically over the last two weeks. NPR's Louisa Lim reports from Beijing on the larger issues behind the dispute.
LOUISA LIM: It all started with one nondescript blue Chinese fishing boat. In waters near the disputed islands earlier this month, it collided with two Japanese Coast Guard vessels. The captain remains in Japanese custody. This small bust-up has spiraled into a bitter diplomatic confrontation, centering on claims to uninhabited but resource-rich islands. Even their name is a matter of dispute. They're called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China.
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LIM: Twice in the past three weeks, small protests have taken place in front of Japan's embassy in Beijing. It's significant these demonstrations are being allowed at all in the Chinese capital. This view, from a protester, who gave his name as Ahmin(ph), is typical.
AHMIN: (Foreign language spoken) (Through translator) I want our government to be stronger. They shouldn't let the Japanese bully us on our own soil. The Diaoyu Islands have always been ours. Young Chinese people shouldn't forget the humiliations of history, and shouldn't allow history to repeat itself.
LIM: Beijing's view - voiced here by Zhou Yongsheng from China's Foreign Affairs University - is that Tokyo has moved the goalposts.
ZHOU YONGSHENG: Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)
LIM: Koji Murata, from Doshisha University in Kyoto, believes Japan's reaction will define the bilateral relationship.
KOJI MURATA: Japan is reasonably reacting to China. But the Chinese reaction is extremely emotional and aggressive. If we do compromise to China this case, we have to compromise to China again, again, again, again.
LIM: But Jia Huixuan at Peking University says part of the blame belongs to the U.S.
JIA HUIXUAN: (Through translator) After Japan's defeat, Taiwan, Okinawa and the Diaoyu Islands were placed under the temporary administration of the U.S. Then in 1970s the U.S. gave the Diaoyu Islands to Japan, making Japan believe the islands belonged to them. So because of this, I think the U.S. is also responsible for these problems.
LIM: Louisa Lim NPR News, Beijing.
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