China Links Japan Isle Spat to Economic Ties

Posted on September 8, 2012

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VLADIVOSTOK, Russia—China said Japan must meet it halfway in a longstanding territorial spat in the East China Sea as concerns grow at a key Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit here about whether the showdown could hurt economic ties between the two countries.

“The Japanese side should take concrete actions and meet the Chinese side halfway, and jointly manage the crisis so as to reduce tensions and promote China-Japan strategic and mutually beneficial relations,” said Qin Gang, the spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said at a news briefing Saturday.

Japanese demonstrators protest against the government’s response to the China-Japan territorial spat in the East China Seat at APEC Nov. 14., 2010

The comment, made at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit being held in the Russian Far East city of Vladivostok, is the most aggressive the Chinese have made since the meetings began this week. Nonetheless, it is unlikely China will take any direct actions to thwart crucial economic ties between East Asia’s two largest economies, as the remarks are typical of Chinese rhetoric designed to sate domestic nationalism and defend territorial interests.

The tough-worded remarks came as Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, also on the sidelines of the APEC summit. Their talks lasted for about an hour and covered a broad range of security and economic issues, including China.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry declined to disclose what the two leaders discussed on China, saying “details of the conversation should not be made public, given the nature of the topic.”

Japan is expected to nationalize the disputed East China Sea islets, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, as early as next week. The government purchase of the islands is aimed at forestalling attempts by Japanese nationalists to acquire the property and build facilities there, potentially provoking already inflamed nationalistic sentiment in China. But the Chinese have viewed the move as an attempt by Japan to consolidate its claims over the islands.

Despite the territorial spat and frequent eruptions of anti-Japanese sentiment in China, Japan has tried to keep tensions under control, as the country depends on China for much of its economic growth. In November, China, South Korea and Japan will begin formal talks on a trilateral free-trade agreement, according to Chinese officials.

Last week, Mr. Noda sent Chinese President Hu Jintao a letter ahead of the APEC summit, attempting to frame the terms of formal bilateral talks during the meeting of the region’s leaders.

Mr. Noda told reporters Saturday that he didn’t have a chance to have a conversation with Mr. Hu, but added that “there may still be an opportunity to talk with him as the APEC is not over yet.”

On Saturday, Chinese officials also said there were no plans for bilateral talks, declining to comment on the likelihood of an informal meeting. Instead, Mr. Qin said the Japanese should “face squarely” China’s “solemn positions and concerns.”

“The Japanese side should face squarely the strong resolve and determination of the Chinese government and the people to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added.

In response to an inquiry about whether China would sit down with Taiwan, as well as Japan to negotiate the three’s competing claims to the island, Mr. Qin said that APEC wasn’t an appropriate forum to discuss such issues since it is an economic meeting.

Despite the back-and-forth, a Japan official said Friday Mr. Noda could minimize diplomatic fallout by promising a formal bilateral meeting with Mr. Hu later this month, when the two leaders attend the U.N. summit in New York.

On Saturday, Mr. Hu met with the leaders of Indonesia, Vietnam and Brunei, according to Mr. Qin, who said China’s president expressed its willingness to work with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to work out a declaration on proper conduct in the South China Sea, where China also has territorial disputes.

The three members of ASEAN all responded positively to Mr. Hu’s proposition, according to Mr. Qin.

WSJ

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Posted in: Economy, Politics