As the U.S. begins placing a greater emphasis on their military presence in the Western Pacific, China is becoming increasingly agitated with the moves and is stepping up their own efforts at creating a stronger foothold in the region.
Regular readers of Threat Journal have been kept well informed about China's recent claims on ownership of more than 75% of the S. China Sea, including islands and waters long held and administered by such nations as Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia. Add to this China's increasingly heated disagreement with Japan over ownership of islands in the East China Sea known as the Senkaku (see this, this and this)
This week China upped increased the ante considerably and is now demanding sovereignty over the southern Japanese Ryukyu Islands, of which Okinawa is the largest, and their intended target. And they're serious. Currently Okinawa hosts nearly three-quarters of the 50,000 US military personnel deployed in Japan.
In an article appearing in The People's Daily, the country's most-read newspaper, the authors argue that the Ryukyu were a vassal state of China before being annexed by Japan at the end of the 19th century, and that Tokyo's defeat in World War II should have prompted the return of the volcanic islands - home to about 1.3 million people - to Beijing.
China's foreign ministry has endorsed the article, saying that "unresolved problems relating to the Ryukyu Islands have reached the time for reconsideration."
Japan's chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga replied by saying that Japan's sovereignty over the Ryukyu archipelago, which stretches for about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from Japan's mainland, is beyond doubt.
With up to 85 percent of Okinawans opposing the US military presence on Okinawa and heightened tensions in the East China Sea, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday said it was time to consider taking the nation’s security into its own hands.
These island disputes are not going away any time soon. In fact, China and Japan have come already come close to blows over the Senkaku Islands on several occasions in the last 6 months. Given China's rapid expansion of military capability at the same time the U.S. is decreasing force size and capability, they are feeling pretty bold.