Japan and China have been much in the news lately because of their dispute over seven square kilometers of barren islets in the East China Sea that Japan calls the Senkaku and China calls the Diaoyu Islands. The rival claims date back to the late 19th century, but the most recent flare-up, which led to widespread anti-Japan demonstrations in China in September 2012, began when the Japanese government purchased three of the tiny islets from their private Japanese owner. Then-Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said that he decided to purchase the islands for the Japanese central government to pre-empt Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara’s plan to purchase them with Tokyo municipal funds. Ishihara is well known for his provocative nationalist actions, and Noda feared that Ishihara would try to occupy the islands or otherwise use them to provoke China. Chinese officials, however, chose to ignore Noda’s manifest motives. They regard a Japanese government purchase in any form as proof that Japan is trying to disrupt the status quo.
Nye, Jr., Joseph S. "Our Pacific Predicament." American Interest. March/April 2013.