Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says that Chinese moves to wrest control of the Diaoyu Islands is not reason enough to justify verbal and printed attacks against China. “You have hurt the feelings of the good people and leadership of China” he castigated bloggers and comment makers on Japanese internet forums, like 2channel.
Across China the people rose up with little government prodding to challenge the Japanese, shuttering Japanese-owned factories, setting Japanese cars on fire and holding mass protests. Some foreign media outlets have called it “mob” behavior and this also upset the Chinese.
Ban Ki-moon said ““Freedoms of expression should be and must be guaranteed and protected, when they are used for common justice, common purpose. When some people use this freedom of expression to provoke or humiliate some others’ values and beliefs, then this cannot be protected in such a way.”
As China moves to curtail the worst of the riots and protests the leadership of the Japanese Liberal Democrat Party, or LDP, has taken on a stridently nationalistic tone in wake of the island dispute.
The ruling Democrat Party is expected to be clobbered in coming elections after the Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, proposed doubling the consumption tax.
This leaves three men fighting for the LDP leadership looking at being the next leader of Japan.
The party is conservative and pro-U.S., with a traditional suspicion of China. The five candidates running for president, a position occupied by Sadakazu Tanigaki, include former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, who have been taking turns calling on Japan to get tough with Beijing in the escalating dispute over the Senkaku Islands.
"Losing a piece of our territory eventually means losing the whole country," Ishiba, an expert on security and defense issues who is considered a hawk, declared at a news conference Wednesday. Ishiba has said he would favor developing the Senkakus — a move that would surely enrage Beijing.
"Our beautiful countryside and ocean are under threat," Abe, perhaps the most rightwing of the five presidential candidates, has said on the campaign trail.
Another front-runner in the LDP race is Nobuteru Ishihara, son of Tokyo's stridently nationalistic governor, Shintaro Ishihara.
The governor set off the East China Sea flare-up by announcing in April that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government planned to purchase three of the Senkaku islets from a private Japanese owner and to build fishing facilities on them. That compelled the central government to buy the isles itself to prevent efforts to build on them that would have escalated the dispute.
Ban Ki-moon also pointed out that Japan is also trying to claim the Korean Dokdo Islands from his native South Korea and indicated he thinks the worsening economy in Japan may be leading them towards revisiting their Imperial history.
“If peace is what is desired then let us calm our voices. Freedom of speech and expression are nice concepts but we cannot allow opinions that hurt others to flourish” he said.