The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced for the first time Friday that China regards the Senkaku Islands a "core interest."
"The Diaoyu Islands are about sovereignty and territorial integrity. Of course, it's China's core interest," ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a press conference, using China's name for the Japanese-administered isles in the East China Sea. Taiwan claims the isles as the Tiaoyutai.
China usually uses the term when addressing such issues as Taiwan, Tibet and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Now Beijing has clarified that it also pertains to the Senkakus.
The statement suggests that China does not intend to make any concessions on the islets, which it claims have been its inherent territory since ancient times.
Hua made the comment after Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told NHK in Tokyo that Chinese officials repeatedly told him during his visit to Beijing earlier in the week that the Senkakus are "one of China's core interests."
Japan, which has administered the islands for decades, maintains the Senkakus are an integral part of its territory and that there is no territorial dispute over them.