National / Politics

China set summit precondition for Japan: Declare no-entry zone around Senkakus

Kyodo

As a condition for holding a Sino-Japanese summit amid a dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, Beijing demanded after Tokyo effectively nationalized the islets last September that Japan acknowledge a territorial dispute exists and agree on a 12-nautical-mile no-entry zone around the territory, sources said Friday.

Japan rejected such demands for “shelving” the dispute over ownership of the uninhabited Japanese-controlled islets, which are claimed by China and known there as Diaoyu, according to the sources, who are involved in bilateral relations.

Tokyo’s position is that the islets are historically part of Japan and thus no dispute exists over the territory, which it initially placed under its control in 1895.

Japan and China have not held a summit for more than a year and talks have been suspended on an official agreement to build a “maritime liaison mechanism” to avoid an accidental clash.

A year ago, Japanese and Chinese defense officials had agreed to start such talks.

Amid rising tensions and fearing a possible clash around the islets after the Japanese government’s purchase of three of the five Senkaku islets from a private Japanese owner last September, Tokyo had by last December sent Vice Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai and Shinsuke Sugiyama, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, separately to China.

They made diplomatic efforts to help the Japanese and Chinese leaders reach an agreement on the maritime liaison mechanism, including a hotline, which was largely agreed upon in working-level talks last June.

Even after the change of government last December with the inauguration of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, China has continued to call for Japan to acknowledge that a territorial dispute exists as a precondition for holding a summit.

Diplomatic talks by high-level officials of the two countries have also been suspended, tripartite summit talks involving Japan, China and South Korea expected to be held this spring were not held, and Japan-China diplomacy has remained deadlocked.

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