New envoy to China vows better ties

Kyodo

New Japanese Ambassador to China Masato Kitera has called for continued dialogue between Tokyo and Beijing, and vowed to strive to improve ties strained over disputed islets in the East China Sea.

Kitera said in a recent interview that the competing claims to the Senkaku Islands, called Diaoyu in China, are unlikely to be resolved quickly as they are not a simple matter of arithmetic.

“This cannot be solved by adding up the Japanese and Chinese positions and dividing them by two,” said the 60-year-old career diplomat, who will be posted to Beijing on Dec. 25. “I will tenaciously make steady efforts to have dialogue.”

Kitera, who was assistant chief Cabinet secretary for slightly more than two months until late last month, pledged to tell the Chinese that mutual benefit will flow from improved bilateral economic ties.

Ties have frayed badly since the Japanese government bought three of the five islands from a private Japanese owner in September. The move angered the Chinese government and sparked protests across China because it signaled the effective nationalization of the chain. Japan now owns four of the isles and the fifth is in a private citizen’s hands.

Japan took control of the uninhabited islets in 1895 and held them until the Allied Occupation forces seized the territory. Shortly before the United States handed the islets back in 1972 along with Okinawa, under whose jurisdiction they were, China started to claim them. They are also claimed by Taiwan.