Forty years ago this month, Japan and China established diplomatic relations. However, the two countries are clearly in no mood to celebrate because of a heated territorial dispute over tiny uninhabited islands called the Senkakus by Japan and the Diaoyus by China. They are under Japanese control but claimed by Beijing.

While the two governments wish to keep relations between the world's second and third largest economies stable, political activists on both sides are provoking confrontations.

Japan, being a democracy, finds it harder to rein in its nationalistic activists, one of whose leaders, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, has proposed to the consternation of both the Chinese and Japanese governments the purchase of the islands from the Japanese family that owns them so as to strengthen Japanese control.