• Kyodo


China has told Japan it will not accept “excessive” criticism over issues involving the East and South China seas when their leaders meet on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit, diplomatic sources said Saturday.

The two countries are trying to arrange the meeting of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Xi Jinping on the fringes of the two-day G-20 summit of major economies beginning Sunday in Hangzhou, China.

Beijing has also pressed Tokyo not to take up the issue of Beijing’s disputes with neighbors in the South China Sea during the G-20 summit, according to the sources.

The move comes after an international tribunal ruled in July that China’s claims to most of the South China Sea, where Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims, have no legal basis.

Beijing has stepped up island construction and militarization of outposts in the disputed sea in an apparent attempt to unilaterally alter the status quo there.

In the East China Sea, a territorial row between Japan and China has heightened after China sent a record number of government and fishing vessels near the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, which China claims and calls the Diaoyus. Some of them repeatedly entered Japanese waters in defiance of official protests from Tokyo.

While Japan has proposed holding the meeting between Abe and Xi on Sunday, China has suggested the talks on Monday, apparently seeking to see what Abe has to say at the G-20 forum, according to a Japanese government source.

During the talks, Abe is expected to call on Beijing to respect the rule of law regarding China’s claim in the South China Sea and to exercise restraint over its maritime activities around the Senkaku Islands, the sources said.

Withholding criticism against China as much as possible, Abe also appears leaning toward eliciting results such as an early start of a “Maritime and Aerial Communication Mechanism” between the two countries’ defense officials to reduce the possibility of clashes between their vessels at sea.

In that case, Abe aims to raise the maritime issues at regional meetings involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to be held in Laos from Tuesday, the sources said.

During a prior consultation over the meeting between Abe and Xi, China said it does not want the issues of the South China Sea and the Senkakus to be discussed for more than half the meeting, which is expected to go about 30 minutes. Chinese officials also asked Japan to refrain from making remarks that could suggest all the blame should rest on China, the sources said.

Arguing that the main topic of the G-20 summit should be the global economy, Beijing also said the South China Sea issue has been discussed among the parties involved and arguments that the rule of law is the “absolute truth” are not acceptable, they added.

In the consultation, Japan, for its part, has urged China to rectify its stance over the Senkakus and called on Beijing to respect the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration on July 12, according to the sources.

Beijing has demanded non-claimants such as Washington and Tokyo stay away from issues linked to the South China Sea, calling them “outsiders.”

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