China attacks Japan over islands dispute

Posted on August 1, 2012

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China and South Korea have criticised Japan over its claims to contested islands, amid rising tensions between the Asian powers over maritime territorial disputes.

“The Japanese authorities have recently made a series of irresponsible remarks regarding the Diaoyu islands,” Senior Colonel Geng Yansheng, a Chinese defence ministry spokesman said on Tuesday. “Safeguarding the nation’s sovereignty and maritime interests is the joint responsibility of all state organs including the military. We will work closely with the other organs and conscientiously fulfil our duty.”

Regional tensions have been rising during the past couple of years over disputed waters in the South China Sea and East China Sea. Beijing and Tokyo have clashed repeatedly in recent months over the Senkaku islands – which China calls the Diaoyu – in the East China Sea which Japan has administered since 1895.

Yoshihiko Noda, Japan’s prime minister, recently suggested that Japan could send its navy to protect the islands if the Japanese coast guard was unable to do so.

The dispute escalated this year after Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara started a campaign to buy them from their private owner. The central government has been forced by Mr Ishihara’s bid to try to buy the uninhabited islands itself, fuelling passionate protests in both China and Taiwan, which also claims them.

South Korea on Tuesday also condemned Japan’s decision to reassert its claim to the disputed Dokdo islands – called Takeshima by the Japanese – which it said were “clearly an indigenous territory of the [Republic of Korea] in terms of history, geography and international law”. Japan repeated the long-stated claims in its annual defence white paper, which was released on Tuesday.

The two tiny islands, which are inhabited only by a handful of Korean police officers and an occasional fisherman, are a longstanding source of tension between the two countries. Korean nationalists view the Japanese claim to the islands as a legacy of the imperial expansion that led to its 35-year occupation of Korea. South Korea said it would not “tolerate any unjust claim of Japan” to the islands, and urged Tokyo to take “immediate corrective measures”.

In the defence white paper, Japan raised its own concerns about the rise of the Chinese military, while saying for the first time that the relationship between the People’s Liberation Army and the Chinese Communist party was becoming more complicated to understand, partly because “the degree of military influence on foreign policy decisions has been changing”.

The paper said a lack of transparency in Chinese military decision making, combined with China’s expanding and intensifying activities in waters close to Japan, were “a matter of concern for the region and the international community”.

Earlier this month, Beijing shocked its neighbours by setting up a new military garrison in the South China Sea, an area where it has territorial disputes with several other states, including Vietnam and the Philippines.

The Financial Times

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Posted in: Economy, Politics