New conservative PM Shinzo Abe has promised to take tougher stance on China
Sino-Japanese relations were dealt another blow on Sunday after Japan’s general election delivered an overwhelming victory to the country’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party.
New prime minister Shinzo Abe promised to take a tougher stance on China in the run up to the election, saying he would expand the nation’s military following territorial disputes over islands in the East China Sea.
Speaking immediately after his victory, Abe offered an olive branch to China, but with a clear caveat. “We must strengthen our alliance with the US and also improve relations with China,” Ade said, before adding that “there is no change in the fact that the Senkaku Islands are our territory.”
Tensions mounted in September after the Japanese government bought the islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China – which are near potentially large off-shore gas reserves – from a private Japanese owner.
Only last week Tokyo sent eight F-15 fighter jets to the islands after a Chinese government plane was accused of violating Japanese airspace.
“Along with the election of the Liberal Democratic Party in December 2012, which is likely to adopt a more aggressive foreign policy towards China, this has raised the risk of skirmishes,” said a statement from Exclusive Analysis. “However, given significant bilateral economic relations, the fear of US intervention, Japan’s desire to avoid war with China and China’s desire to avoid alarming its Southeast Asian neighbours, a full military confrontation is unlikely.”