Don’t fault China for sea confrontation: envoy


The Chinese marine survey ship that confronted a Japan Coast Guard vessel last week in what Japan says was its side of the border was not acting illegally, Cheng Yonghua, Beijing’s new ambassador to Tokyo, reiterated Tuesday, urging both nations to resolve the dispute over the East China Sea demarcation.

Japan lodged a protest with China after Beijing released a report justifying the May 3 actions of the Chinese seabed research ship to chase off the coast guard vessel, which Tokyo claims was navigating within the nation’s exclusive economic zone.

In a speech in Tokyo, Cheng pointed out that the median line was drawn by Japan and is not recognized by China.

“The basic fact is the two countries’ views are different,” Cheng said in Japanese. “China and Japan have held several discussions over the law of the sea and I think the two countries should resolve the problem by continuing to hold such dialogue.”

China and Japan had several maritime confrontations in April and May.

In early April, a Chinese helicopter flew within around 90 meters of the Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer Suzunami off Okinawa.

Cheng said this was because the MSDF was “following around the Chinese navy” while it was on a training mission.

The incident occurred “just when the two countries’ (militaries) were building a relationship of mutual trust in recent years, and I am worried that it may be damaged,” he said.

Cheng, who took up his post in March, has had four previous stints as a diplomat in Tokyo.

He studied at Soka University in Tokyo in the late 1970s and is fluent in Japanese.

“As the 11th Chinese ambassador to Japan, I am confident that the China-Japan friendship will develop,” he said. “I would like (to make efforts) to improve the two countries’ public sentiment (toward each other), firmly believing that the relationship between the people of both countries will become even friendlier.”

However, there is still some “bias” among people in both countries, he said, pointing to disparaging comments on the Internet.

“There is still some prejudice, with people harboring incorrect knowledge about each other,” Cheng said, attributing many “such misunderstandings” to a mutual lack of understanding of each other’s people.

Cheng also talked about the Shanghai Expo that opened this month, pointing out it is the first time an international event of this kind has been held in a “developing country.”

Between 1978 and 2009, China’s gross domestic product increased by 92 times, a rise averaging some 10 percent annually, Cheng said. But he also expressed concern over the disparity between urban and rural areas.

“It is true that China has produced major achievements,” he said. “But looking at China as a whole, it is still unbalanced, with problems of disparity. . . . For China to realize its goal of establishing a rich society and true modernization, we still need to make serious efforts.”