China’s most powerful military leader, in an unusual public statement, last week ordered military forces to prepare for combat, as Chinese warships deployed to waters near disputed islands and anti-Japan protests throughout the country turned violent.
Protests against the Japanese government’s purchase of three privately held islands in the Senkakus chain led to mass street protests, the burning of Japanese flags, and attacks on Japanese businesses and cars in several cities. Some carried signs that read “Kill all Japanese,” and “Fight to the Death” over disputed islands. One sign urged China to threaten a nuclear strike against Japan.
Anti-Japan protesters surround policemen / AP
Gen. Xu Caihou, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, considered the most senior military political commissar, said Friday that military forces should be “prepared for any possible military combat,” state run Xinhua news agency reported.
Heightened tensions over the Senkakus come as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in China Monday.
Panetta, in comments made in Japan shortly before traveling to China, said, “We are concerned by the demonstrations, and we are concerned by the conflict that is taking place over the Senkaku islands.”
“The message I have tried to convey is we have to urge calm and restraint on all sides,” he said, noting any “provocation” could produce a “blow up.”
Panetta repeated the U.S. position that it is neutral in the dispute over Japan’s Senkaku islands, a small chain of islets located south of Okinawa and north of Taiwan. But he also reaffirmed the U.S. defense commitment to Japan, a treaty ally.
“We stand by our treaty obligations,” Panetta said, echoing a similar commitment made during a 2010 standoff between Beijing and Tokyo over the Senkakus. ”They’re longstanding, and that has not changed.”
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