BEIJING – China on Saturday demanded that Japan reverse its nationalization of the Senkakus and address the sovereignty dispute through negotiations, urging Tokyo to “make concrete efforts” to prevent fraught bilateral ties from spiralling out of control.
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said the sharp deterioration in Sino-Japanese relations was “single-handedly” caused by Japan’s purchase last September of three of the main Senkaku islets, and accused Tokyo of “illegally” seizing and occupying what he termed Chinese territory. The islet group in the East China Sea is administered by Japan but has been claimed by China since the 1970s.
“The Chinese side believes that Japan needs to face up to reality, take real steps to correct its mistakes and work with us to handle and resolve relevant issues through dialogue and consultations, so as to prevent a further escalation of the situation and stop it getting out of control,” Yang said on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress in Beijing.
Speaking at a news conference, Yang denounced Japan’s Sept. 11 purchase of the Senkaku islets of Uotsuri, Kitakojima and Minamikojima from a Saitama businessman, which effectively nationalized the entire chain, saying the move has “caused great damage to China-Japan relations and undermined stability in the region.”
“We urge Japan to make concrete efforts to improve its relations with China and play a positive and responsible role toward peace, stability and development” in the Asia-Pacific region, he stressed.
Beijing has been pressing Tokyo to acknowledge that the sovereignty of the Senkakus, known as Diaoyu in China, is in dispute, but Japan continues to maintain that the uninhabited islet cluster is an integral part of its territory and denies the existence of the territorial row.
While censuring Japan for its acquisition of the islets, Yang said that developing “long-term, sound and steady (bilateral) relations” serves “the fundamental interests” of both countries and their people. “The Chinese side is ready to continue to develop a strategic relationship of mutual benefit with Japan,” he said.
Yang is expected to be replaced as foreign minister by new Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the end of the National People’s Congress, which runs through March 17. He will likely be appointed state councilor in charge of foreign affairs.
In late January, Xi, who is about to take over as China’s president from Hu Jintao, told a Japanese delegation from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that he will give serious consideration to holding a summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, adding he wants to promote a beneficial Sino-Japanese relationship based on a broad perspective.