Art Imitates Life in ‘Madam Secretary’

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Ongoing tensions between Japan and China over disputed islands inspired the Oct. 12 episode of the new CBS series “Madam Secretary,” which stars Tea Leoni as U.S. Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord.

Secretary of State McCord (Tea Leoni) talks with the Japanese ambassador (James Saito) in a scene from "Madam Secretary."

Secretary of State McCord (Tea Leoni) talks with the Japanese ambassador (James Saito) in a scene from “Madam Secretary.”

In the episode, McCord and her staff broker a deal between the two countries for joint use of the islands’ natural resources. But before Japanese Foreign Minister Shimabukura (James Saito) and Chinese Foreign Minister Chen (Francis Jue) can sign the agreement, a Chinese student visiting the U.S., Fu Xinpei (Danni Wang), requests political asylum.

China says it will not sign the treaty if asylum is granted. Japan threatens to plant a flag on the islands, and if there is an armed conflict the U.S. would be obligated to defend Japan.

In real life, a group of islands in the East China Sea, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are claimed by both countries. Though uninhabited, they are near potential oil and gas reserves as well as fishing grounds, and are strategically located. The issue has strained diplomatic relations.

Saito’s recent credits include the TV shows “Hawaii Five-0” and “Person of Interest” and the movie “Life of Pi.” Jue has appeared on “The Good Wife,” “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” Wang played the lead in episodes of “Deadly Sins” and “Unfaithful: Stories of Betrayal.”

The episode, titled “Just Another Normal Day,” can be viewed online at www.cbs.com. “Madam Secretary” airs on Sundays at 8 p.m.

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