Senkaku Islands - background

The Senkakus are a group of five small islands and three smaller rocks in the East China Sea. Of the islands, Uotsurijima (3.6 square kilometers) is the largest, followed by Kubajima (0.87 square kilometers), Minamikojima (0.32 square kilometers), and Kitakojima (0.26 square kilometers). The closest inhabited Japanese island to the Senkakus is Ishigaki Island, approximately 170 kilometers away. Taiwan is also less than 200 kilometers away, while the distance to the Chinese mainland is 400 kilometers. The islands are administered and controlled by Japan but are also claimed by Taiwan (the Republic of China - ROC) and mainland China (the People’s Republic of China - PRC). Taiwan and China refer to the islands as the Daioyutai or Daioyu Islands.

Japan’s territorial claim to the islands dates back to the end of the 19th century, a period when Japan was expanding as an imperial power. Although Japanese surveys conducted in 1880s found the islands to be uninhabited and “showed no particular trace of having been under the control of Qing China,” no formal claim was announced due to concerns that doing so could result in diplomatic frictions.1

The islands were not formally annexed until January 1895. Although this took place during the Sino-Japanese War, Japan’s government did not legally categorize the acquisition of the islands as a conquest of Chinese territory. Consequently, the islands were not mentioned among the territorial concessions that Japan received from China under the April 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki.2 From 1895 to 1945, the Senkaku Islands were administered as a part of Okinawa prefecture.

The economic value of the islands was acknowledged years before they were formally administered by Japan. Koga Tatsushird, a wealthy and influential Japanese businessman in Okinawa, had sought since 1884 to utilize the islands.3 Consequently, in 1896 Koga was granted a free 30-year lease to Uotsurijima, Kubajima, Kitakojima, and Minamikojima for the purpose of promoting their development.4 Koga built a small village on Uotsurijima and set about exploiting the marine resource of the area. At the peak of local economic activity in 1909, 99 households consisting of 248 people lived on Uotsurijima.5 Koga’s business caught and killed huge numbers of fish and sea birds, inflicting enormous environmental damage on the islands. A once-striving population of hundreds of thousands of albatross and other sea birds was rapidly driven into virtual extinction.6 As resources on the islands themselves became less, and motorized fishing boats from other islands took on a greater role in the area, the population of Koga’s Senkaku village rapidly declined. Although Koga’s son Zenji purchased

Uotsurijima and three other islands from the Japanese government in 1932, business activities were closed down in 1940 and the islands once again became uninhabited.7

The islands remained uninhabited until a tragic incident in the closing weeks of World War II. With Okinawa’s main island falling to the American military, efforts were undertaken to evacuate Japanese civilians from outlying islands that had not yet been invaded, including Ishigaki Island. On June 30, two ships carrying about 200 people, many of them women, children, and the elderly, set out to Japanese-occupied Taiwan on a route that passed near the Senkaku Islands.8 On the afternoon of July 3, just a few hours before their expected arrival in Taiwan, the ships were attacked and sunk by an American B-24 bomber. It is estimated that about 70 people died in the initial attack. A large group of survivors managed to reach Uotsurijima but lacked adequate food or provisions. Over the course of nearly 50 days, they desperately sought to survive on the meager resources of the island, eating tiny hermit crabs and grass.9 About 70 people starved to death on Uotsurijima before a rescue ship arrived on August 18. An additional 20 people were so weakened that they died in the days after being rescued.10 The mayor of Ishigaki City and several survivors of the incident returned to Uotsurijima in 1969 and erected a small memorial in memory of the Ishigaki residents who had perished there.11

From the end of the war until 1972, the Senkaku Islands were part of the American administered Ryukyu Islands. The US Navy used two of the islands for practice firing, paying rental fees to Koga Zenji and his family.12 When the United States formally returned the Ryukyus to Japan in 1972, the Senkaku Islands were included in the transfer and once again became a part of Okinawa prefecture.

The emergence of a territorial dispute

Formal Chinese claims to the Senkaku Islands were announced in 1970, first by Taiwan and then by mainland China. Both parties claimed their ownership of the islands was based on pre-1895 historical evidence that demonstrated that the islands were a part of China. In their view, Japan unlawfully annexed the islands in 1895 as a part of its imperialist expansion. Japanese opponents of these claims have argued that both Chinese claims were influenced by a 1969 United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) report that suggested the existence of oil and natural gas reserves in the seabed near the islands.

The territorial dispute did not prevent the normalization of diplomatic relations between mainland China and Japan in 1972, but it did rear its head in 1978 when the two nations were negotiating a peace and friendship treaty. Antitreaty politicians in Japan, including Ishihara Shintaro of the Liberal Democratic Part}’ (LDP)’s Seirankai faction, insisted that the Japanese government demand Chinese recognition of Japan’s sovereignty over the islands.13 On April 12, 1978, between 80 and 150 armed Chinese fishing boats appeared in the waters around the Senkakus. While many saw it as a Chinese show of dissatisfaction with the actions of Japan’s anti-treaty politicians, it ended up backfiring and weakening pro-treaty forces. China then downplayed the presence of the boats and withdrew them within a few days.14 The treaty was ultimately passed without official negotiations regarding the status of the islands. Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping explained that the two sides still held “different views” on the territorial dispute, so its resolution would be left to a “wiser” future generation that would “certainly find a solution acceptable to all.”15

The issue was thus shelved at the governmental level in favor of pursuing “economic gains at the expense of their nationalist credentials.”16 Non-state actors, however, had different priorities and would seek to derail this arrangement from its very start.

State and non-state actors within a field of contestation

The beginning of an international territorial dispute in the 1970s birthed a field of contestation in which state and non-state actors sought to take advantage of structural shifts to improve the relative positions of their nations. In the period from the 1970s until the 2000s, the Japanese state held a major advantage as an incumbent actor, maintaining physical possession of the islands and resources such as the Japan Coast Guard, the Self-Defense Forces, access to media, financial resources, and so on.

The mainland Chinese state, on the other hand, was at a major disadvantage resource-wise and was not in a position to effectively overturn Japan’s dominance in the field. As reflected by Deng’s statement, China was willing to freeze the field and await a more favorable circumstance. In the early decades of the dispute, China was militarily and economically weaker than Japan, but that gap significantly lessened by the 2000s.

The Taiwanese state could also be described as a challenger, but following an international shift in diplomatic recognition to mainland China, good relations with Japan became more important than aggressively pursuing the territorial issue. The Japanese state, for its part, wanted to avoid the discussion of the Senkakus, as official recognition that any other country had a legitimate cause for disputing Japanese ownership would have weakened the Japanese state’s position within the field.

State-level inaction prompted frustration and action from non-state actors in all of the involved nations. Japanese nationalist activists took it upon themselves to earn’ out activities that would assert Japan’s ownership of the islands, while activists from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China sought to counter Japan’s claims. Some of this activism took the form of traditional protest activities, such as street demonstrations and the publishing of nationalist literature. However, the most visible, and perhaps the most important actions, were landings on the islands. Japanese activists would land on the islands to erect flags, lighthouses, and memorials. Non-Japanese activists would seek to raise their own national flags and destroy or damage the physical structures placed by Japanese activists.

The erecting of lighthouses was especially valuable to Japanese activists, who saw the creation of facilities that could then be passed over to Japanese government control as bolstering Japan’s legal claim of “effectively controlling the islands.”17 Non-Japanese activists performed counter-landings to destroy or disable the “illegal” Japanese structures. On both sides the activists were acting in the place of states that were unwilling to take such actions. The lighthouse activism also highlighted how domestic groups could use the territorial issue to embarrass governments.18 Through landings and counter-landings, activists hoped to compel the inactive governments to get involved in the dispute.19

The first activist landing on the Senkaku Islands took place in September 1970, during the period of American administration over the islands. The activists were a group of Taiwanese journalists, seeking to both express the Republic of China’s territorial claim over the islands and compel their government to be more assertive. They planted a Republic of China flag on one of the islands and also carved “Long Live President Chiang” into a rock.20 Ryukyu policemen “forcibly evicted” the journalists from the island and removed the flag.21 It did not spark a major diplomatic incident.

Japanese nationalists began their activism in 1978 as a response to a perception that their own government had failed to adequately demonstrate Japanese sovereignty over the islands in response to the above-mentioned fleet of armed Chinese fishing boats. Their first landing took place on August 13, 1978, two days after Japan and the PRC signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship. The activists had chartered a fishing boat from Miyako Island in Okinawa, carefully avoiding police and Japan Coast Guard patrols so that they could land and construct a makeshift lighthouse on Uotsurijima.

Anti-treaty politician Ishihara Shintarô was behind the landing. Ishihara was a prize-winning novelist who, in contrast to his friend Mishima Yukio, had chosen national electoral politics over violent paramilitary activism. Ishihara’s memoirs detail how he organized the lighthouse-building expedition. Funds were raised from fellow conservative politicians within the LDP’s Seirankai faction and private donors. Although Ishihara did not personally go to the islands, he helped recruit the men who did. One of the young men he recruited for the mission was Toyama Rikkoku, grandson of the famous pre-war ultranationalist spymaster Toyama Mitsuru. Other participants included a mixture of university students and right-wing activists. A former Imperial Japanese Army pilot and friend of Ishihara’s provided a small aircraft that was used to drop provisions to the activists after they landed on Uotsurijima.22 Interviewed years later, one activist believed Ishihara used his political influence to convince the Japan Coast Guard to leave the activists alone and allow them to complete their mission.23

One notable participant in Ishihara’s expedition was Etô Toyohisa, a member and future leader of Nihon Seinensha (The Japan Youth Association - hereafter referred to as Seinensha). Seinensha was a uyoku group founded in 1969 by Kobayashi Kusuo, a top cadre of the Sumiyoshi-kai, one of Japan’s largest yakuza syndicates.24 Like other uyoku organizations, their members frequently dressed in military-style uniforms, making them stand out from less extreme citizen activists. From the 1970s until the 2000s, Seinensha would be the principal non-state actor involved in landings on the islands. According to its official homepage, their members were unsatisfied with the “weak-kneed” policies of the Japanese government and acted to protect Japan’s claim to the Senkakus. They wrote that their actions were directly influenced by the “outrage” of Chinese incursions into the area and that their lighthouse “guarded the light of Japan.”25

Seinensha landed on the islands several times over the following years: once in May 1979, once in March 1982, and again in June 1984. The missions were carried out to observe the state of the islands.26 Goats were also released on Uotsurijima under the assumption that they could serve as an emergency food source if anyone was stranded there. The goat population gradually increased, and with it came the destruction of local vegetation. Ishihara Shintaro did not claim direct involvement in Seinensha’s activism, but he did praise their work in upgrading and maintaining lighthouses.27

Seinensha members returned to Uotsurijima in 1988 to mark the 10th anniversary of the first lighthouse by upgrading it. They submitted an application to the Japanese government a year later, requesting that the lighthouse be granted the status of an official navigation indicator. After delays in the approval process, they returned to the islands in June 1990 to make further improvements to the quality of the lighthouse and ensure it would meet government regulations.28 News reports suggesting that the application would be accepted prompted protests from mainland China and from Taiwanese politicians. A Taiwanese group attempted a landing on the islands, bringing along a news crew, who subsequently broadcasted the footage of the ships being turned back by the JCG. AntiJapanese demonstrations followed, and the Japanese Foreign Ministry intervened in the process to force the rejection of Seinensha’s application in April 1991.29 Despite this setback, Seinensha returned to Uotsurijima in 1994 and 1995 to perform maintenance to the lighthouse.

Another small crisis took place in 1996 after Eto led Seinensha members to the islands and erected a solar-powered aluminum lighthouse on Kitakojima, again applying for Japanese government recognition.30 China’s Foreign Ministry lodged an official protest with the Japanese government, calling on Japan to respect the “shelving dispute” consensus.31 Protests followed in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China. On September 26, 1996, an activist from Hong Kong drowned when trying to evade the Japan Coast Guard during a failed landing attempt. His death prompted another landing attempt a month later, this time by activists from Hong Kong and Taiwan. The activists succeeded in coming ashore at Uotsurijima on October 7, where they planted PRC and ROC flags. The flags were removed several days later by Japanese authorities. Prior to the landing, the Japanese government announced on October 4 that it had rejected Seinensha’s lighthouse recognition application. When a Seinensha expedition was sent to the islands in December, they found that the lighthouse had been vandalized.

More landings followed in 1997. This time, it was conservative politicians and journalists instead of uyoku members. On April 27, Ishigaki City assemblyman Nakama Hitoshi and a Sankei Shimbun reporter landed on Uotsurijima.32 A few weeks later, on May 6, House of Representatives lawmaker Nishimura Shingo also landed on Uotsurijima to fulfill an election campaign promise made during the 1996 crisis.33 He was joined by Nakama Hitoshi, journalist Miyajima Shigeki, and filmmaker Inagawa Kazuo. It was the first time that an elected lawmaker of Japan’s National Diet landed on the Senkaku Islands. Nishimura was not a member of the ruling party (the LDP), and the government officially denounced his visit. Official protests from China were answered with assurances that the Japanese government did not endorse Nishimura’s actions and that Japan desired a continued “freeze” of the Senkaku situation.34

As in the past, activists from Hong Kong and Taiwan responded with their own attempt to land on the islands. In May 1997 activists arrived near the Senkakus with 30 small boats, facing off against JCG patrol vessels. Three of the boats ignored warnings from the JCG and entered Japanese territorial waters.35 During the confrontation, the activists’ boats collided with Japanese patrol vessels on several occasions, and two activists were captured after jumping onto a JCG patrol vessel. The activists were released without any charges filed against them, “in accordance with the decision taken by the relevant government authorities.” Then, in September of 1997, Chinese activists attempted to charter an airplane that would fly them to the islands for a parachute landing. Engine trouble caused the airplane to make an emergency landing shortly after take-off from an airport in the Philippines, forcing a cancellation of the plan.36

Relative calm in the late 1990s to the early 2000s

The responses of the Chinese and Japanese governments to the boat activism of non-state actors clearly showed restraint and a willingness to prevent the dispute from harming other fields of relations between their nations. James Manicom has noted that official statements demonstrated noteworthy pragmatism in the face of attempted “provocations” from non-state actors. These statements condemned the landings and construction of lighthouses but also acknowledged that the landings had been against the policy of the Japanese government.37 Chien-peng Chung has also argued that there is enough evidence to make an indisputable claim that the governments in Beijing, Taipei, and Tokyo were all

engaging in tactic communication and behavioral convergence with one another, to signal the fact that they were trying their utmost to play down, if not suppress, the entire controversy by doing nothing to encourage and everything to restrain their domestic nationalist forces; and that they expected this goodwill to be reciprocated by the opposing governments.38

Within this field of contestation, the incumbent state actor and two challenging state actors decided to stick with the status quo for the time being. The Japanese activists - non-state actors within the field - tried the same kind of tactics they had employed in earlier decades but received no major response from the states involved. In November 1997, the Chinese and Japanese governments signed a new fisheries agreement, agreeing to establish jointly controlled maritime boundaries while leaving the waters around the Senkaku Islands untouched.39

Another right-wing organization, calling itself Nihonjin no Kai (Japanese Peoples’ Association) landed on Uotsurijima in May 2001. They were accompanied by politician Nishimura Shingo. It was the only time that this organization visited the islands. One year later its members gained infamy when they founded Kenkoku Giyugun (Nation Building Volunteer Corps), an armed nationalist organization, which was disbanded in 2003 after its key members were arrested for bomb threats and attacks on groups associated with North Korea. Nishimura later denied prior knowledge of the organization’s criminal composition.40

Starting in 2002, Japan’s national government began to rent the islands of Uotsurijima, Minamikojima, and Kitakojima from the family of businessman Kurihara Hiroyuki, who had purchased the Koga family land titles in 1991.41 When landings by Japanese activists occurred in the 1990s, the Japanese government had cited the islands’ private ownership as a reason why it could not ban Japanese citizens from coming ashore on the islands.42 For example, after Seinensha’s Kitakojima landing in 1996, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs public stance was that “the islands are privately owned, the Japanese government cannot be directly involved ... and we consider this building as just a physical building and not a lighthouse according to Japanese law.”43 After 2002 rental agreement, the government increasingly restricted access to the islands.44 This was a new and significant shift in the Senkaku field of contestation, and Seinensha was blocked from carrying out further visits to the islands.

While the Japanese government restricted the activities of its own country’s activists, Chinese government’s action in the waters near the Senkakus increased. Throughout 1998 and 1999, Chinese surveying vessels were operating within the Japanese-claimed seas around the islands, refusing to recognize JCG orders to leave the area.45 There were also a few cases of Chinese naval vessels operating near the islands.46 Despite Japanese official protests, and a short-lived 2001 agreement that China would provide advanced notice of research activities carried out in “waters near Japan and in which Japan takes an interest,” unannounced Chinese surveying missions continued. The situation gradually became one in which “Chinese vessels operated with relative impunity” in the waters around the islands.47

A multitude of factors in proximate fields led to increasing tensions between Japan and China, and Senkaku field of contestation was affected by those changes. The Japanese state’s incumbent position in the field gradually weakened as China grew in economic and military power, becoming more assertive. Japanese prime minister Koizumi Junichiro took office in April 2001, and his subsequent visits to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine caused China to put a halt on meetings between the two countries’ leaders while he remained in office. In a study of Chinese actions near the islands between 1978 and 2007, Krista Wiegand argued that increased Chinese activity near the islands from the late 1990s to the early 2000s could best be explained as “a dual strategy of issue linkage and coercive diplomacy.” China used “militarized threats” such as increased patrols near the islands as “bargaining leverage to force changes in Japan’s policies or actions regarding other disputed issues.”48 Wiegand identified linkages to Japanese government actions that were reaffirming the US-Japan security alliance in the late 1990s and to Koizumi’s shrine visits in the 2000s.

Prior to 1996, ideational factors, namely the idea of asserting territorial sovereignty over the islands, were a main motivation for Seinensha activists. The islands were valued most of all because they were Japanese, making them a part of the sacred Japanese nation. They saw it as their mission to defend the sovereign territory of Japan. The economic or material advantages of controlling the islands were not particularly emphasized. However, after China declared an expansion of its Exclusive Economic Zone in 1996 and Chinese ships conducted more surveying missions in the area, there was a swing in nationalist thinking, with Seinensha and conservative politicians devoting more attention to the material and economic value of the East China Sea.49

March 24, 2004, saw the first-ever landing on the islands by mainland Chinese activists. Seven activists landed on Uotsurijima, planted two Chinese flags (a PRC and a ROC flag), and vandalized the lighthouse and shrine. It was also the first time that an activist landing party was formally arrested by Japanese authorities.50 Before local authorities could file trespassing charges against the activists, Japan’s national government intervened and they were quickly deported.51 The swift action, which sent the Chinese activists home within 48 hours, reflected Prime Minister Koizumi’s desire to prevent the issue from interfering with a planned visit by Japan’s foreign minister to Beijing. Koizumi had “immediately asserted ownership over the decision-making process” over how to treat the activists, establishing an important precedent.52 Beijing reacted with similar restraint, and there came to be an understanding that future landings by activists would result in deportation instead of arrests.

Japanese weekly magazine Aera, a part of the Asahi Shimbun company, printed a “scoop” article in October 2010 claiming that the restraint shown by both governments in 2004 was the result of “secret promises” between the LDP and the Chinese government. Unnamed sources stated that the Japanese side promised to prevent landings by Chinese activists on the islands but would not detain them unless they had committed a very serious offense. The Chinese side promised to prevent its activists from sailing in boats to the Senkakus. Subsequent events indicate that such promises may have indeed existed.53

On the non-state front of the 2004 incident, one Japanese uyoku group, Nihon Kominto, responded with violence to the Chinese landing and the Japanese government’s deportation of the activists. In the early morning hours of April 24, a Nihon Kominto member rammed a loudspeaker bus into the gates of the Chinese consulate in Osaka. No one was hurt in the incident, but the gate to the consulate was badly damaged. Nakagama was arrested, and the Japanese government issued a formal apology' to China.54 Xinhua News Agency referred to the attack as “the most serious by a suspected Japanese right-winger against Chinese diplomatic facilities since the normalization of diplomatic relations in 1972.” Japanese courts also treated this crime as a serious matter, and Nakagama was sentenced to seven years in prison.55 Nihon Kominto, like Seinensha, was a uyoku group that dated back to the 1960s and had ties to organized crime. Other traditional Japanese uyoku groups have regularly held demonstrations near China’s consulates and embassy, where large contingents of police are on hand to prevent them from inflicting harm. While demonstrations involving uyoku sound trucks are loud, Daiki Shibuichi has noted that “the degree of political influence of these events on Japanese foreign policy may be limited, which likely explains why the events go largely unreported.”56

The island landing and consulate attack of 2004 did not become a major crisis for the two countries. However, the status quo would soon “unravel” as both governments began placing greater importance on the islands and their surrounding waters.57

The lighthouse that Seinensha built on Uotsurijima was granted official navigational beacon status by the Japanese government on February 9, 2005.58 Seinensha’s efforts to assert sovereignty seemed to have finally paid off, and they treated the decision as a major victory’. While some considered this event an expression of a tougher stance toward China, others have argued that the government’s decision was meant to prevent future escalation of the territorial issue.59 Up until that point, Seinensha had used lighthouse maintenance as a justification for its attempts to land on the islands, with those landings provoking responses from abroad. By taking ownership of the lighthouse, the Japanese government was putting an end to Seinensha’s boat activism. The Chinese government issued a very’ short statement of official protest over the decision but took no other meaningful action.60

The next few years passed without a major diplomatic incident involving the islands. One noteworthy’ event occurred in 2008 when a JCG patrol ship collided with a Taiwanese recreation fishing boat that had entered Japanese-claimed waters near the islands. The Taiwanese boat sank, and despite Japan’s initial claims that the Taiwanese had rammed the Japanese ship, video evidence later proved that the JCG had been at fault in the collision. Japan issued a formal apology' and paid compensation for the lost boast and fishing equipment.61

In 2009, Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party was swept out of office and replaced by' a new government under the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). The DPJ government pursued a closer relationship with China, and it initially seemed like there would be no major conflict with China. Yet despite the DPJ’s stated intentions, a major crisis would destabilize the Senkaku field of contestation in 2010.

Channel Sakura and the Senkakus prior to 2010 crisis

In the first few years of Channel Sakura’s existence, there was no major incident involving the Senkakus. During that period Channel Sakura focused its time and efforts on opportunities in other fields. Yet the Senkakus were still an issue of importance within the assertive conservative right. Some Channel Sakura programs introduced viewers to the value of the islands, both in a material sense and in an ideational sense.

For example, Professor Yamada Yoshihiko of Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology discussed the state of the Senkakus with Channel Sakura’s “Today’s Self-Defense Forces” program in March 2009. Drawing on historical evidence, he claimed that the Japanese fishermen of Ishigaki Island had considered the Senkakus a valuable fishing area since the Edo Period. Yamada stated that the islands were far and difficult for small fishing boats to safely reach, even though they were a good source of tuna. Fishermen would benefit, he argued, if the Japanese government constructed facilities on the islands. There was also mention of how the government was renting the islands and would not allow people to land there. The importance of strengthening good relations with Taiwan, and with the Japan-friendly former Taiwanese president Lee Teng-Hui, was introduced as a way to take a stand against Chinese territorial claims. In this video one could observe the employment of a topic that would often appear in future Channel Sakura video programming about the Senkakus: the plight of the common fisherman. This narrative fit well with Channel Sakura’s identity as a grassroots movement “by the Japanese people and for the Japanese people.” Oil and mineral resources under the seabed were not completely ignored, but the hardworking Japanese fishermen were given more attention.62

The strategic value of the Senkakus - another important aspect of the dispute - could be observed in a “Today’s Self-Defense Forces” episode that aired on September 14, 2009. Former Maritime Self-Defense Force officer Hirama Yoichi discussed the state of the Senkaku dispute under the DPJ’s China-friendly policies. The DPJ was said to be threatening the US-Japan alliance with its plan to create an East Asian Community that would include China as a member state. Additionally, the DPJ government sought to alter previous basing agreements and reduce the US military presence in Okinawa. Hirama used the story’ of the Philippines pushing America to close its naval base in Subic Bay and the subsequent Chinese seizing of islands in the South China Sea as a warning to Japan: If America leaves, Japan could lose the Senkakus within six months. China would then have a foothold dangerously close to Ishigaki Island and the rest of Okinawa. In such a case, Japan would be like the Philippines - unable to draw upon American help in resisting aggressive Chinese actions. Not only would the Senkaku Islands be lost, Hirama argued, but Japan would also lose access to the seabed’s strategically significant gas reserves.63

Past landings on the Senkakus were covered in a July 10, 2010, group discussion program about the “dangerous” situation in the Senkaku Islands. It included an impressively credentialed panel: retired Maritime Self-Defense Force Rear admiral Kawamura Sumihiko, retired Air Self-Defense Force It. general Sato Mamoru, Japan Coast Guard Academy superintendent Miyake Norio, and Takubo Tadae of Nippon Kaigi. The panel held a detailed discussion of the growing military threat that China posed to Japan, including speculation about the methods China would employ to gain control of the Senkakus. Of particular note was General Sato recalling how the activists from Hong Kong and Taiwan were smart to bring many journalists along with them when they tried to land in 1996.64 In the coming years, Channel Sakura would employ a similar tactic.

An interesting prediction came from Channel Sakura president Mizushima Satoru on a July 23, 2010, program. Although the program was meant to focus on Google Maps’ policy of featuring both the Japanese and Chinese names for the islands, Mizushima mentioned a larger threat to Japan. He warned about a plan for an “invasion” of the Senkakus from mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. He called on the Japanese government to show the will to protect its nation, even if it meant developing nuclear weapons. Furthermore, if the politicians did not have the have the will to do it, then the people would need to rise up and defend the Senkaku Islands by establishing a “people’s defense force” (minkan boeitai). Three minutes into the video, Mizushima made a striking prediction. He mentioned that an international meeting of Chinese businesspersons would take place in Los Angeles on September 7,2010, where participants would allegedly conspire to advance China’s territorial claims to the islands.65 Although the meeting in question proved to be unimportant, that particular date would indeed mark a major event in the Senkaku Islands dispute.

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