Japan’s deputy foreign minister is in Beijing for consultations with China about a group of hotly contested islands in the East China Sea known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku by the Japanese.
As the meetings took place and officials made an effort to ease tensions, the Japanese coast guard fired water cannons at a group of Taiwanese fishing boats, the latest confrontation on the islands.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei decribed the discussions between Vice Foreign Ministers Chikao Kawai and Zhang Zhijun as frank and in depth.
According to Hong, during the meeting, Zhang Zhijun asserted that the Diaoyu Islands and its affiliated islands have been China’s sacred territory since ancient times and that there is ample historical and legal evidence of that. He said with regard to China’s repeated representations on this, Japan has turned a blind eye to these historical facts and international law. He warned Japan to "correct its mistakes with concrete actions."
Earlier, Japan fired water cannons on 40 fishing boats and eight coast guard vessels from Taiwan. Japan’s Defense Minister said managing ship incursions into the waters is a top priority for his country.
Japan has to think of how to deal with the ships arriving from China and Taiwan to the islands, he said, and how to keep Sino-Japanese relations stable.
When asked about the Taiwan boats, Hong said Chinese fishermen have the right to work in the contested waters, adding that the Chinese government is resolute and firm in defending its territorial sovereignty.
The Japanese Coast Guard says the Taiwan fishing vessels have left the disputed waters.
Fishing rights in the waters have long been a source of friction between Japan and Taiwan. Tensions between Japan and China also rose after Japan bought the disputed islands, a source for potential energy resources, from a private owner. The move prompted protests in many Chinese cities.
According to China’s state-run news agency, Xinhua, China’s presumptive next president, Xi Jinping, has urged Japan to stop what he called its “wrong behaviors.”
Although few authorities expect the dispute to escalate to military confrontation, China sent its first aircraft carrier into service Tuesday, in a move the ministry of defense says will increase the operational strength of the Chinese navy.