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June 26, 2017

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Tokyo's Taioyutais plan threatens Beijing: expert

TAIPEI--If the disputed Tiaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea are acquired by Japan, China's strategic space in the East China Sea will be squeezed, a Chinese strategic expert said yesterday.

Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan, executive vice president of the China Council for the Promotion of Strategic Culture, said in an article in Beijing's Global Times that not only are the waters around the Tiaoyutais rich in resources, they are also significant in geostrategic terms.

If the islands, known as Diaoyu Islands in China and Senkaku Islands in Japan, are owned by Japan, China will be forced to accept Japan's marking of the midline of the continental shelf in the East China Sea, Luo said.

"A more serious consequence will be the U.S.-Japan military alliance that will block us west of the midline," he said.

He said that currently whenever Chinese military vessels navigate the first island chain, which refers to the first chain of major archipelagos out from the East Asian continental mainland coast and includes Japan, Taiwan and the northern Philippines, U.S. and Japanese military planes and ships usually monitor and harass them.

If such actions are pushed closer to the midline, China's strategic space "will be greatly squeezed," Luo said.

He said that this is because the Tiaoyutais are located in the center of the East China Sea, between mainland China and Okinawa, Japan.

If Japan builds long-range early warning radar systems on the Tiaoyuais, it would be able to monitor not just northern Taiwan, but also the coastal areas of southeastern China, Luo said.

The Tiaoyutais are currently controlled by Japan, but are claimed by both Taiwan and China.

The territorial dispute over the island chain sparked a recent diplomatic spat between Japan and China after activists from Hong Kong and Japan made landings there to assert the sovereignty claims of their respective countries.

The Japanese government is also reportedly finalizing a plan to purchase three of the islands in the chain from their owner in mid-September at a cost of 2.05 billion Japanese yen (US$26.15million).

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