For independent observers of Far Eastern politics, the recent ramping up of tensions over the East China Sea represents a decidedly ominous development.

These seas contain seabed resources of gas and oil as well as abundant marine life. And for that reason, the disputed islands that lie at the heart of this dispute are a potential flashpoint between China and Japan. Added to the tensions are long-standing historic and geopolitical rivalries between the nations that have swapped second- and third-placed rankings in the world’s economic charts.

That the remote islands are such a sticking point underlines the importance given to the dispute by both Tokyo and Beijing.

The declaration of an airspace cordon over the disputed area by China has frayed the nerves of all its neighbours from Seoul to Taipei. With US Vice-President Joe Biden visiting the region last week, the dispute is also high on the agenda of the White House – and rightly so.

As Biden carefully notes, Beijing is engaging in activities that run counter to its role as a key economic and regional power. And given that role, Beijing should at least be acting in a manner that leaves it less susceptible to international criticism. Beijing needs to remember too that its economic strength comes from its trading partnership built up globally. Rocking the boat over the disputed seas will only create unnecessary waves for all in the region.