Don’t read this post on the East China Sea dispute

by Chris Zappone

A story has surfaced that the Japanese would consider using US-made unmanned Global Hawk drones by 2015 to patrol around the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands.

At first glance, this would seem the latest escalation of the island dispute.

Yet, just a little googling shows that the Japan had already signaled interest in using Global Hawk drones in September, around the time of the flare up between China and Japan. 

My guess is that the only thing that makes today’s story new, is that a reporter put the question to the Japanese in the context of the island dispute.

But this sort of story highlights another element of the way this event is covered in the media. 

More attention on the Senkaku-Diaoyu Island dispute seems to increase the expectation that more will happen. This has a self-reinforcing quality to it. i.e. There is more interest in this dispute, so there is more appetite for stories in the media and blogosphere. In fact, a statement on the tail end of this story brought this to mind. (the last paragraph).

The Japanese government upgraded its information liaison office set up at the crisis management center of the prime minister’s office to deal with the issue.

Which means that previously, where a Chinese incursion into Japanese waters around the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands would have been noted internally in Japan, among Japan’s Self-Defense Force and selected discreet channels, now, thanks to an “upgraded” information liason, such pseudo-events automatically generate news stories.

Obviously, there are real tensions around the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands. This is a real dispute. But having a daily story, even if nothing has changed, may actually lessen the chances of a peaceful resolution by keeping the issue front and centre. I myself have opted against blogging every story of a Chinese ship movement when they don’t dramatically change the nature of the bigger issue.