Nationalism stokes island disputes around Asia
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) - They are mere specks on the map. Many are uninhabited, and others sparsely so by fishermen and seasonal residents. Yet the disputed ownership of these tiny constellations of islands is inflaming nationalist fervour from the cold North Pacific to the tropical South China Sea.
In recent weeks, these long-simmering tensions have returned to a boil, with violent protests in Chinese cities, a provocative island junket by South Korea's lame-duck president, and Japan's government reportedly planning to buy disputed islands from their private owners.
The popular analysis is that the rising tensions are fuelled by a regional power shift that has seen China become increasingly assertive with its neighbors in securing claims over potentially resource-rich waters to its south and east. But the growing acrimony may have at least as much to do with domestic political posturing.
"Wrapping yourself up in the national flag gives a very convenient exit for people with other agendas to justify their positions," said political scientist Koichi Nakano of Tokyo's Sophia University.